Adrian Lamo

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Person.png Adrian Lamo   History Commons WebsiteRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Adrian Lamo.png
Boston, Massachusetts
DiedMarch 14, 2018 (Age 37)
Cause of death
drug overdose?
Criminal status
In 2004, pleaded guilty to one felony count in SDNY to hacking The New York Times and Microsoft. Subsequently informed on Bradley Manning.
ParentsMario Lamo-Jiménez and Mary Lamo-Atwood
SpouseLauren Fisher
Victim ofpremature death
American hacker who committed "suicide" in 2018.

Adrián Alfonso Lamo Atwood was an American hacker[1][2].[3] Lamo first gained media attention for breaking into several high-profile computer networks, including those of The New York Times, Yahoo!, and Microsoft, culminating in his 2003 arrest.[4]

Lamo was best known for reporting Chelsea Manning to Army criminal investigators in 2010[5] for leaking hundreds of thousands of sensitive U.S. government documents to WikiLeaks.[6][7] Lamo died on March 14, 2018 at the age of 37.

Security compromise

Lamo was a grey hat hacker who viewed the rise of the World Wide Web with a mixture of excitement and alarm. He felt that others failed to see the importance of internet security in the early days of the World Wide Web. Lamo would break into corporate computer systems, but he never caused damage to the systems involved. Instead, he would offer to fix the security flaws free of charge, and if the flaw wasn't fixed, he would alert the media.[8] Lamo hoped to be hired by a corporation to attempt to break in systems and test their security, a practice that came to be known as red teaming. However, by the time this practice was common, his felony conviction prevented him from being hired.[9]

In December 2001, Lamo was praised by Worldcom for helping to fortify their corporate security.[10] In February 2002, he broke into the internal computer network of The New York Times, added his name to the internal database of expert sources, and used the paper's LexisNexis account to conduct research on high-profile subjects. The New York Times filed a complaint, and a warrant for Lamo's arrest was issued in August 2003 following a 15-month investigation by federal prosecutors in New York. On September 9, after spending a few days in hiding, he surrendered to the US Marshals in Sacramento, California. He re-surrendered to the FBI in New York City on September 11, and pleaded guilty to one felony count of computer crimes against Microsoft, LexisNexis, and The New York Times on January 8, 2004.[11][12]

In July 2004, Lamo was sentenced to two years' probation, with six months to be served in home detention, and ordered to pay $65,000 in restitution. He was convicted of compromising security at The New York Times, Microsoft,[13][14] Yahoo!,[15] and WorldCom.[16]

Contact with Chelsea Manning

On May 22, 2010 Adrian Lamo was contacted for the first time by Chelsea Manning (then Bradley Manning), a young IT specialist in the US Army, via an Internet chat. Manning informed him that he had copied 260,000 US State Department documents and was planning to leak them to the WikiLeaks platform. [17]He hoped to get advice from Lamo, as the act was very similar to Lamo's previous offenses.

According to the official story, "Lamo himself saw this plan as a danger to many American soldiers and the national security of the United States, so he alerted US state security officials."[18] The obvious implication is that he, like so many hackers, already was an FBI informer (see article: hackers), or was specifically tasked with creating entrapment situations as part of his sentencing deal. The conversation with Manning lasted a total of five days, which the state security officers read from day three and finally arrested Manning on May 26, 2010. [19]

After Lamos' deed became public, many changed their opinions about the former Grey-Hat hacker. He was described as a "traitor" and the "most hated hacker in the world", but he himself asserted that he could not act otherwise. When information later surfaced that Manning was ill-treated while incarcerated at the Quantico military base, Lamo became thoughtful and said: “There are moments in life when you have a number of options where none of them are right. All of them harm someone and one has to choose the one that harms the least number of people. That means you are still harming someone, and that's why I think of Manning every day."[20]

Personal life and death

Lamo was known as the "Homeless Hacker" for his reportedly transient lifestyle,[21] claiming that he spent much of his travels couch-surfing, squatting in abandoned buildings, and traveling to Internet cafés, libraries, and universities to investigate networks, sometimes exploiting security holes. He usually preferred sleeping on couches, and when he did sleep on beds, he didn't sleep under covers. He would also often wander through homes and offices in the middle of the night, by the light of a flashlight.[22]

Lamo used a wide variety of supplements and drugs throughout his life. His wife, Lauren Fisher, called his drug use "body hacking". One of Lamo's preferred supplements was kratom, which he used as a less-dangerous alternative to opioids. In 2001, he overdosed on prescription amphetamines. After he turned in Manning, his drug use escalated, but later claimed that he was in recovery.[23]

In a 2004 interview with Wired, an ex-girlfriend of Lamo's described him as "very controlling", alleging "he carried a stun gun, which he used on me". The same article claimed a court had issued a restraining order against Lamo;[24] he disputed the claim, writing: "I have never been subject to a restraining order in my life".[25]

Lamo said in a Wired article that, in May 2010, after he reported the theft of his backpack, an investigating officer noted unusual behavior and placed him under a 72-hour involuntary psychiatric hold, which was extended to a nine-day hold. Lamo said he was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome at the psychiatric ward.[26]

For a period of time in March 2011, Lamo was allegedly "in hiding", claiming that his "life was under threat" after turning in Manning.[27]

Lamo died on March 14, 2018, in Wichita, Kansas, at the age of 37.[28][29][30] Nearly three months later, the Sedgwick County Regional Forensic Science Center reported that "Despite a complete autopsy and supplemental testing, no definitive cause of death was identified."[31][32] However, many bottles of pills were found in his home. Several of the pills found there were known to cause severe health problems when combined with kratom. As a result, evidence points to an accidental death due to drug abuse.


A Document by Adrian Lamo

TitleDocument typePublication dateSubject(s)Description
File:WikiLeaks - Manning.docchat log10 June 2010Chelsea ManningThe document is connected to the arrest of 22 year old Bradley Manning for allegedly leaking 1/4 million classified US Diplomatic cables + video footage of US killings in Iraq to WikiLeaks. It contains what Wired estimate to be about 25% of the on-line chat logs between Manning and Adrian Lamo (The guy who shopped him to the FBI).


  2. Lamo on Facebook
  6. 25, 2016
  12. Pleads Guilty to Times Hack
  17. Bradley Manning, der verratene Verräter. In: 2010,
  18. Luke Harding, David Leigh: "Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy" 2011
  21. Magazine
  27. 16, 2011