Maxime became interested in hacking at the age of six. At 16, he had already earned £ 1 million from online credit card fraud.
In May 2007, it would follow the last shot. Maxime, the 17-year-old Parisian was in his girlfriend’s house and was going to organize on the dark web a sale of stolen cards, worth 80 thousand euros.
The internet connection in Maxime’s parents’ house was protected by several proxy servers and a VPN. The computer of his girlfriend’s family was not protected, but that morning, Maxime logged in, nonetheless.
Once online, the buyer of “HatHack” credit cards commented that Maxime’s IP address was in France. This made him hesitate a bit, but he still continued the transaction and arranged to receive the money through a cryptocurrency platform, after which he went to school.
This is how the end of the hacker’s adventure began
What Maxime did not know was that HatHack was an American secret agent and that – together with the French Central Bureau of Cybercrime (SDLC) – he was preparing to arrest an international group of 13 hackers, including him.
Hackers broke the databases of online stores and stole customer information, made American cards with them and then sold them on the dark web. For three years, Maxime – who had the nickname “Theeeel” or “Zetun” online – had managed to keep his secret life hidden until then.
Until he caused his own decline.
Maxime’s adventure in the world of hacking began when he was just six years old, after downloading the Hacker’s Manifesto from Phrack magazine in 1996 – and he had resisted until the moment of bad inspiration.
A few years after discovering the hacking, Maxime broke the French webmail service CaraMail. “All you had to do was enter the source code. Then, when you reach the authentication, you change the Admin code = 1 and you become an administrator ”.
On the CaraMail forum, he met a user named “Dadoo”, who gave him information about a stolen credit card.
“He told me how the system works and I used it to buy more cards online,” Maxime recalled.
He entered dark web forums like Mazafaka, Carder and MyBazaaar, where he bought even more stolen cards.
He developed a network with which to steal cards
He also met “Lord Kaisersose”, “Maksisk”, “Junkee Funkee” and “Drondon” on the dark web – all older hackers, many from outside France.
In 2003, the group began buying and selling stolen credit cards on a large scale.
They broke into commercial websites and stole customers’ financial information. The most common targets were MasterCard, VISA and American Express. Back then, American credit cards had a magnetic stripe, and this revealed the owner’s credit limit: “We’d rather steal from rich Texans than from poor people who didn’t have money anyway.”
With the help of his network (which already had 13 members), he began to forge cards as well as banknotes. It was a simpler and more profitable business. He bought an MSR206 encoder (which reads and writes information from cards) and a special printer to print numbers and holograms.
He received the information from Lord Kaisersose and several other hackers.
“At school, no one knew who I was. I was a white kid who lived in the suburbs. I didn’t want money, as much as I wanted to be recognized. “
His “business” was completely hidden
One day Maxime’s mother discovered a photo album full of credit cards.
“It simply came to our notice then. I set the album on fire and promised to stop. ” His mother believed him and did not insist, and Maxime returned to his old habits.
Between 13 and 16 years old, Maxime made almost one million euros and a profit of 50 thousand euros per month. He invested them in E-gold, an early cryptocurrency based on the gold index, which fell after becoming popular with hackers and other criminals. According to documents in the lawsuit, he also founded Straps Line, an offshore accessory store that made keychains. All this before he turned 18.
On June 12, 2006, U.S. Secret Service personnel at the US Embassy in Paris sent a letter to the SDLC. They were investigating hacker Lord Kaisersose on American Express card thefts. The operation, called “Hard Drive”, identified Theeel as a salesman on the Darkmarket site and associated him with Lord Kaisersose.
The end was inevitable
At the beginning of 2007, Maxime was in his last year of high school when the school counselor called him. He told her: “Maxime, I got some calls. I’m worried about you. I’m not even allowed to talk about it, but you should stop what you’re doing now. “
Maxime knew then that things would not last long, but still he continued and in the end he found himself alone, using his girlfriend’s computer.
In June 2007, Maxime woke up to a dog barking and knocking on the door. He knew immediately what was happening and tried to get rid of an incriminating USB drive. He went to throw it out the window, but saw thirty policemen filling the garden.
The police checked his house and found everything: blank credit cards, printer and computers used for transactions.
His first lawyer, Laurent-Franck Lienard, explained that he was awaiting a 14-year prison sentence and a fine of one million euros. Authorities estimated that Maxime and his associates had stolen 12.5 million euros from 28,000 European credit cards.
He was temporarily imprisoned until trial, and the lawyer managed to get him out for six weeks so he could study and take his exams.
The problem took an unexpected turn
Maxime’s final trial took place in 2008 in Aix-en-Provence, where the appellate court sentenced him to only 12 months in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros. American Express claimed damages worth one million euros, but the court rejected the proposal.
After being released again, Maxime became a cybersecurity engineer. He collaborated with the Ministry of Defense, and currently works for a private cyber security agency. “I consider myself lucky,” he said.
Maxime said he wasn’t sure if he regretted what he had done. “Especially because it put me on the right track – I had to go through all this to get to where I am now. But I want to apologize to the family for the fear and upset I caused. That’s what I’ll regret all my life. “