The Solar Saga: Tracking Down His Hacker

“How much of what you told me is the truth?”

It’s 10:27 pm on a quiet Wednesday evening. Usually at this hour I’m scouring blogs or flipping through an Esquire, but tonight’s a bit different. Someone’s been lying to me. I crush the high-volume key of my MacBook, impatient for a response. Two seconds pass. Then a nervous laugh: “So I’m guessing you found out that I’m not from South Africa?”

And there begins my second interview with Solar’s alleged hacker. Late Sunday, myself and News Editor John Kennedy heard about Solar’s Twitter takeover and after seeing all the crazy documents that unceasingly spewed, realized we had to find this person. As a journalist, I abhor conducting business on Twitter—perhaps I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to correspondence. But here I was, one day later, tweeting @Solar­_7Grand to check his DM. Monday passed without a response. When I finally got a hold of the Internet sadist on Tuesday, he was expectedly stingy and paranoid.

No recording. No phone. No *67. No conference line. Nada.

Yet, he was also surprisingly personable - an “I love Vibe” mention here, a smiley face there. I suspected the back-and-forth was thrilling for him. Skype was my bait. He ate it up.

Supposedly, he had just arrived in South Africa that day. I asked him the time — close to 12:30 a.m. He requested to quickly get this interview moving because he was ready for bed. That made me skeptical. I asked if we could push our interview back an hour. From my experience, hackers rarely sleep before 2 a.m. and I wanted make sure I was in control. Wish I could share our full DM history, but he deleted it.

When we first spoke, I had no expectations, just questions. I was immediately taken aback by his voice. He was everything opposite the woman he'd originally indentified himself as. His voice was harsh and technical as he explained to me the importance of keeping his identity concealed. I asked if he was using a voice-changer. He admitted yes. I asked his age. “Umm, between 18 and 22.” The rest of our conversation you can read here. For the most part he was patient and forthright. For the most part I was satisfied with what I pulled.

There are few things worse for a writer than the hours following an important interview, when the regrets start showering down. This time it wasn’t so much of a forgotten query, but more of an epiphany. First, I realized that his job title (Account Manager) didn’t match his young age range. Then I recalled that he couldn’t help me remember the word, Afrikaner, a term every South African can reference with ease. That’s when I remembered I had spoken to a hacker. The kind of person I befriended during my naïve year as a 12-year-old web freak—the age where I entrusted an Internet “buddy” to hook up my AOL web page. Instead, he crashed my computer. Hackers are huge liars.

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