3 arrests over breach claimed by ‘Phineas Fisher’ hacker

MADRID (AP) — Spanish police have arrested three people over a data breach linked to a series of dramatic intrusions at European spy software companies claimed by an online Robin Hood-type figure known as Phineas Fisher.

The bust fed a swirl of speculation that the net had closed on the flamboyant hacker, although an email exchange seen by The Associated Press appeared to suggest he, she or they weren’t in custody.

Officials were not saying one way or the other.

A spokesman with Mossos d’Esquadra, Catalonia’s regional police, said only that two men and a woman were arrested Tuesday in Salamanca and Barcelona on suspicion of breaking into the website of the Mossos labor union in May, hijacking its Twitter feed and leaking the personal data of more than 5,500 officers. No more arrests are expected, he said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with force policy.

The arrests sent rumors flying because the Catalan breach had previously been claimed by Phineas Fisher, a hacker who first won notoriety in 2014 for publishing data from Britain’s Gamma Group — responsible at the time for spyware known as FinFisher. The hacker or group of hackers cemented their reputation by claiming responsibility for a spectacular breach at Italy’s Hacking Team in 2015.

Gamma Group did not immediately return messages left after hours. Neither did FinFisher, the Munich-based company that now markets the eponymous intrusion tool. Hacking Team spokesman Eric Rabe said he had “no special insight” into the arrests but declined to comment on whether his company was in touch with Spanish authorities.

Toni Castejon, the general secretary of the Catalan police union whose site was hit, expressed doubt that Phineas Fisher had been taken into custody.

Similar doubt was raised by a hacker who shared screenshots of messages he had received from Phineas Fisher in the past few hours. The hacker agreed to share the private correspondence only if granted anonymity.

Although not conclusive, the messages suggested the mystery over the hacker’s identity would linger at least a little longer.


Associated Press writer Aritz Parra reported this story in Madrid and AP writer Raphael Satter reported from Paris.