Star Wars Lady Gaga, Ke$ha and the German Hacker Heist
Part 3: Personal Greetings from Stars Were as Important as Money
In April, Deniz hacked into the computer of Jason Clarkson, the brother of American singer Kelly Clarkson. Using his computer, he managed to infiltrate the pop star's laptop and downloaded 19 new songs from the hard drive. He would have preferred Lady Gaga, he later told the police, but he couldn't get into her computer. Nevertheless, Kelly Clarkson wasn't half bad, he added. Soon afterwards, he sent an e-mail to a woman from the German Kelly Clarkson fan club, asking if she was interested in buying the next album -- the whole thing. The woman notified the star's management, negotiated a price with DJ Stolen and eventually got all the songs from him for 250. She also kept a copy of the entire chat.
But Deniz quickly became so sophisticated in his new venture that investigators could hardly keep up. "The suspect's methods are getting more and more audacious," the Rasch attorneys complained. Instead of selling songs to hand-picked fans, he had developed his own Internet shop, where anyone could click on a song and place it into a shopping cart. And now a hacked track no longer cost only 15, but was selling for $50 to $1,000. During a three-week period in May, $16,874 was paid into his PayPal account.
Deniz's site offered Shakira for $150, Leona Lewis for $50, Britney Spears for $750 and Lady Gaga's song "Then You Love Me" for $1,000. By now he had solved his Lady Gaga problem, because he had found a supplier: Christian, the young man from Wesel. "Cee" had sent him six songs by Lady Gaga, two by Mariah Carey, three or four by Leona Lewis -- songs Cee claimed had been a gift from another hacker. Cee and DJ Stolen divided up the proceeds, each earning a few thousand in the process.
The "shouts" and "drops," the personal greetings from the stars, were as important as the money. The boy from Wesel insists that he never blackmailed a star, and so does Deniz. But the police are looking into charges of coercion, at least in the case of DJ Stolen. After all, he once bragged online that he had "blackmailed" singer Marques Houston, just like all the others who "sent me a shout." Now Deniz has changed his tune, saying that he was just showing off, and that none of it was true.
But how else is one to interpret what he wrote to US pop starlet Ke$ha? He also hacked into her computer, where he found photos of a breast operation, along with other photos that could destroy a career in the United States.
"Hey this is DJ Stolen from Germany. I just wanna let you know that i love you so fucking much," he wrote, adding that it would be nice to get a shout from her. Ke$ha apparently quickly understood how dangerous the situation was. This DJ Stolen had discovered her secret e-mail address, which meant that he might even have access to everything that was in her mailbox. Her response reflected her concern. Sure, she wrote, she would love to record a shout for him, as long as he didn't do anything with her private photos. "We should be friends," she wrote, adding: "i'll send you whatever drops as soon as you need em! What exactly do you want them to say?" Deniz A. replied: "Yo whatup you already know it's ya girl Kesha and I'm in love with my boy --- DJ Stolen." In return, he promised to keep her photos to himself. But just in case she tried to find him, he added, he had enough material to embarrass her in front of the whole world.
The Police Make their Move
When asked about the case today, Deniz says that he was merely trying to discourage Ke$ha from having people find him. The threat, he says, had nothing to do with the shout. He points out that Lady Gaga also sent him something voluntarily. But even though Ke$ha sent him a shout, Deniz published one of the photos, adding a few arrows and labels that left no room for doubt. Then another hacker retaliated for Ke$ha by putting Deniz's personal ID card, which he had apparently found on his computer, online. The police made their move immediately, to prevent Deniz from wiping his computer clean.
Christian spent years living his life on the Web, and now the police have deprived him of that existence. He is slowly realizing that it was better this way, and yet he still feels the addiction. His two lawyers, Essen attorneys Christian Nohr and Rudolf Esders, have now made it clear to him that he could get up to three years in prison for each of perhaps 500 or 1,000 hacker attacks, not to mention the possibility of being sued for millions by the record companies.
The public prosecutor's office could very well present its indictment this month. "I don't want to go to prison," says Christian. But if he wants to get off with probation, it will be time for him to find a different life, one outside the darkness of his basement room, outside the dark rooms of the Internet. He'll need time for that, and perhaps some therapy.
"It will be a long road out of addiction, and what he now needs are prospects for life," says attorney Nohr. Christian wants to go back to school and get a high-school diploma. Two weeks ago, he went to an adult education center to look into his options. This isn't much, and yet it's more than he would have been expected to do only a few months ago. On the other hand, sometimes he mourns the absence of his old life, and he asks himself why they searched his room and left so many others alone. Why is it over for him, while the others can keep on doing what he did -- perhaps with a new server, but with the same people, the same Trojans and the same trophies. In November, a boy from Hamburg offer to sell eight songs from the new Michael Jackson album for $1,000, promising top sound quality.
'I'm Incredibly Sorry'
Deniz has since apologized with a grand gesture. "I'm incredibly sorry about the whole thing," he told the German tabloid Bild, and he sent a letter to Lady Gaga, begging her forgiveness. He also wants to write to Ke$ha. Now he wants to start a new life, says Deniz, by launching a business to protect stars from hackers.
But his old life might catch up with him first. On Nov. 17, at 11:38 a.m., four months after the police raid on Deniz's house, Sony executive Peter Thea sent an e-mail to Mark Pitts. "Mark," he wrote, "here's the song by Chris Brown. Tell me what you think."
Someone else was also reading the same e-mail. His e-mail address was: email@example.com. It is one of the many addresses Deniz uses online. But that isn't everything. There is also a chat protocol, presumably from the same day, and a screenshot of the e-mail correspondence between the two Sony executives. One of the two chatters, calling himself "Deniz RnB," writes: "I'm in. He just bit."
Burkhard Benecken, the attorney for Deniz, says his client has absolutely nothing to do with it.
- Part 1: Lady Gaga, Ke$ha and the German Hacker Heist
- Part 2: 'I'm Addicted to Music'
- Part 3: Personal Greetings from Stars Were as Important as Money