Hacker life doesn't last forever

Friday, 21 November 2003, 1:13 PM EST

By the age of 20, Benjamin Breuninger's life was a mess. Estranged from his mother and stepfather, a dropout with no job and months behind on his rent, he often went a day or more without eating.

Online, he had a different life. There, he was Konceptor, a skilled hacker who broke into computer networks, defaced Web sites and strutted in online newsgroups such as alt.2600, where he closed his frequent postings with this warning: "The Keystroke is mightier than the Pen. And this is My GAME."

In 2 1/2 years in the late 1990s, Breuninger hacked into dozens of computer systems. He peeked at the payroll of a nearby Taco Bell, left messages supporting Jesse Ventura on Web sites and stole thousands of Internet e-mail accounts and passwords.

Breuninger's online exploits ended when the FBI arrested him at his Bloomington, Minn., apartment Sept. 11, 2000, for hacking into and downloading files from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

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