French Obama hacker escapes jail

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A 23-year-old Frenchman was handed a suspended jail sentence on Thursday for hacking into US President Barack Obama's Twitter account.

Francois Cousteix who surfed the web at his home in the central region of Auvergne under the moniker Hacker-Croll, had faced a maximum two-year jail term for illegally accessing the account on the micro-blogging service.

The young man, who insisted at his trial that he was acting for the common good to highlight privacy breaches on the web, left the courtroom smiling saying he was "relieved" to escape a jail sentence.

"I did it for preventive reasons, not to hurt people," Cousteix said.

He told the court "it was to raise web users' awareness" of the need to choose secure passwords, and aimed to show that "the weak link is not the machine but the person."

Cousteix was caught in March after FBI investigators in the United States alerted French authorities.

They found he had deduced the passwords of Twitter administrators from personal information that was posted publicly, enabling him to access accounts in the names of Obama and numerous other famous people.

Asked by the presiding judge if he considered himself a hacker, Cousteix replied: "Not in the strict sense of the term. I didn't destroy anything. I could have, but I didn't. It's against my ethics."

© 2010 AFP

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