The Justice Department brought charges this week against a Swiss individual allegedly responsible for hacking into dozens of companies over the course of several years, most recently allegedly carrying out a breach that exposed massive amounts of surveillance data.
Swiss national Tillie Kottmann was indicted Thursday by a grand jury in the Western District of Washington on multiple counts of wire fraud, identity theft, and computer fraud and abuse.
Kottmann, who is currently in Switzerland, is accused of masterminding and carrying out hacks of a U.S. security device manufacturer, a Washington state agency, an automobile manufacturer and a financial services company.
The charges cover a range of hacking activities and are being brought in the wake of the recent breach, masterminded by Kottmann, of tech firm Verkada. The incident involved gaining access to 150,000 surveillance cameras, exposing sensitive footage from homes, hospitals and prisons.
According to Bloomberg News, which first reported the Verkada breach, Kottmann is part of an international network of hackers seeking to raise awareness of security vulnerabilities. According to Bloomberg, Kottmann previously took credit for breaching chipmaker Intel and carmaker Nissan Motor Company.
“Stealing credentials and data, and publishing source code and proprietary and sensitive information on the web is not protected speech—it is theft and fraud,” acting U.S. Attorney Tessa Gorman said in a statement. “These actions can increase vulnerabilities for everyone from large corporations to individual consumers. Wrapping oneself in an allegedly altruistic motive does not remove the criminal stench from such intrusion, theft, and fraud.”
The FBI’s Seattle Cyber Task Force was also involved in investigating the case and bringing charges.
“A cyber-criminal could be anywhere in the world. Thanks to our foreign partnerships, international borders won’t provide a haven for their illegal activities,” Donald Voiret, FBI special agent in charge in Seattle, said in a separate statement. “This indictment demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to working with our partners around the globe to disrupt and dismantle criminal enterprises that target Americans and their businesses.”
The charges come a week after Swiss authorities in Lucerne, Switzerland, carried out a raid on Kottmann’s home, with a spokesperson for the Swiss Federal Office of Justice telling The Hill earlier this week that the raid was carried out at the request of U.S. authorities. The raid was in connection to Thursday’s charges, and not the Verkada hack.
If convicted on all counts, Kottmann could face more than 25 years behind bars. Bloomberg News reported separately on Friday that Kottmann had retained the services of the lawyer who previously represented Edward Snowden.