Alleged Capital One hacker barely bothered to hide identity

Thursday, August 1, 2019

SEATTLE (AP) — The 33-year-old former Amazon software engineer accused of hacking Capital One made little attempt to hide her attack. In fact, she effectively publicized it.

It’s one of many riddles swirling around Paige Thompson, who goes by the online handle “erratic.” Wellknown in Seattle’s hacker community, Thompson has lived a life of tumult, with frequent job changes, reported estrangement from family and self-described emotional problems and drug use.

FBI agents arrested Thompson Monday for allegedly obtaining personal information from more than 100 million Capital One credit applications, including roughly 140,000 Social Security numbers and 80,000 bank account numbers. There is no evidence the data was sold or distributed to others.

Thompson, in federal custody pending an Aug. 15 detention hearing, wasn’t reachable. Her public defender, Mohammad Hamoudi, did not return an emailed request for comment.

But her online behavior suggested that she may have been preparing to get caught. More than six weeks before her Monday arrest, Thompson had discussed the Capital One hack online with friends in chats and in a group she created on the Slack messaging service.

Those chats and the recollections of others offer a sketch of someone talented and troubled, grappling with what friends and her own posts indicate was an especially bumpy crossroads in her life.

Friends and associates described Thompson as a skilled programmer and software architect whose career and behavior — oversharing in chat groups, frequent profanity, expressions of gender confusion and emotional ups and downs — mirror her online handle.

“She had a habit of openly struggling with her state of mind in public channels,” said Aife Dunne, an online friend. “It’s where her screen name comes from.”

Prior to working for Amazon, Thompson held six jobs, each for less than a year, at organizations such as ATG Stores, Onvia Inc. and Zion Preparatory Academy. She joined Amazon in 2015 to work at Amazon Web Services, a division that hosted the Capital One data she allegedly accessed illegally beginning in March.

When Thompson departed that job in 2016, she lost her apartment and moved into a group home. FBI agents who searched that house after her arrest also detained the owner, a convicted felon, for illegal possession of firearms when they discovered roughly 20 guns, including assault rifles, on the property.

In a Wednesday court filing, federal authorities also accused Thompson of threatening to “shoot up” a California social media company.

Category: