As soon as he arrived at Transfert, Vincent Plousey could not refrain from having a look at the phone switchboard and providing hints about the improvement of its security. Not a tall man, with bright and quizzical eyes, Plousey is well mannered and has nothing of a boaster. He seems as shocked by the charges against him as by the conditions of his stay in jail.
What has been your personnal route ?
I left school before my teens and went to a specialized centre for kids suffering from educational and domestic problems. I ended up with a certificate in horticulture. I went into gardening, then became a technician in a telecom centre. Self taught, I created my first e-zine about telecoms and radio in 1995, before launching the Chaos Radio Club of France, which made fun of the French Chaos Computer Club, a group that had been created - and manipulated - by a hacker who had been overturned by the DST, the French counter-intelligence agency. I left this scene in 1998 because of squabbles between groups. Also, I was disgusted by these guys who swear they fight for freedom of expression, but crave to work in the computer security business -more or less hand in hand with the military.
How did it feel to be arrested by the DST ?
On April 18, at about 9 a.m., I left home for work when seven plain-clothes policemen, seized me at gunpoint in front of some of my neighbours. I was taken to the DST central office, then to the hyper-secure antiterrorist section of the high court. At first, I did not realize much what was happening to me, especially because I did nothing for the last two years. The examination was quite heavy, with a lot of morale advice on the side, and I was scared to death. I kept saying to myself : this must be a mistake. When they lock you in their cell you are not a human being any more, everything is made to humble you. You have nothing to eat and you can’t even drink : they piss in the cell sink... It was a little better in the prison I was locked in for the next two months, but it all amounts to the same misery.
What did you learn from this experience ?
I think my case was meant as an example, that could frighten quite a lot of people. In my opinion, they knew that I would write something to advise others not to go astray the way I did. On the other hand, they also turned me into some kind of a martyr - which I am not : anyone could have acted the same way. In fact, I’ve been very naive and immature. But I do not regret having informed others about the way networks function - and how easy it is, by crossing sources, to find informations. Everything I found was open-source, even if it was in the military field. Moreover, I told the judge that I had only done the job of an investigative journalist. The only source unavailable to the public that I used is a national police force manual that was given to me during a "2600" meeting at the Place d’Italie McDonald’s restaurant (the classic meeting place of french would-be hackers). My story is commonplace, but the punishment is too strong : I did all this just for fun, and out of curiosity. I have been so heavily punished because I opened my mouth too much. As far as freedom of expression is concerned, France is not the United States, where those very frequenciees that got me into trouble can be found in magazines - and where the First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech.