Hacking pioneer John Draper faces sex misconduct claims


John DraperImage copyright
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Mr Draper became famous after finding a way to make free phone calls in the US

A lauded hacker and privacy campaigner has been accused of historic cases of sexual misconduct and harassment.

John Draper – who uses the nickname Captain Crunch – is famous in part for having helped Apple’s co-founders get started.

The allegations include claims of unwanted sexual contact with male teenagers at tech events between 1999 and 2007.

Mr Draper has not commented directly on the reports.

However, he published a brief message on Twitter saying he had faced a “lifelong struggle on [the] autism spectrum”.

Follow-up statements by the publishers of his autobiography said that his condition had caused him to exhibit “some immature behaviours”, and acknowledged that an “exercise programme” he had offered others had caused offence.

“We have only sympathy and compassion for those who have experienced John in a negative way and feel victimised by this programme in any way,” the publishers wrote.

The news site Buzzfeed, which was first to report the claims, and Ars Technica have said that Mr Draper has been barred from Las Vegas’s high-profile Def Con hacking conference as a consequence.

The founder of the Houston Security Conference confirmed to the BBC that it had also disinvited Mr Draper from its event.

“We have not been contacted by anyone as of this moment, so we cannot confirm any bans,” the biography’s publishers told the BBC in response.

Teenage ‘target’

Mr Draper’s named accusers include the Los Angeles bureau chief of the Wall Street Journal, Ethan Smith, who said he was molested during an attempt to interview the hacker in his hotel room at a conference in 2000.

Another, the University of Pennsylvania’s Prof Matt Blaze, said he was stalked by Mr Draper while he was a high school student aged 14 or 15.

“While I’ve tried over the years to quietly warn young hackers in his orbit to be careful, I regret that I’ve not been more public in doing so,” tweeted Prof Blaze after Buzzfeed published its report.

Others, however, had publicly flagged concerns about the “energy massages” Mr Draper had offered in comments posted to Reddit, Slashdot and other news websites over the years.

Refused gift

Las Vegas-based Mr Draper, who is now 74 years old, rose to fame in the 1970s after he discovered that a toy whistle given away with Captain Crunch cereal generated a tone that could be used to control some functions of AT&T’s phone network.

He went on to create a “blue box” that generated other tones, which when played down telephone lines could be used to make free calls.

After he taught Apple’s co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak the “phone phreaking” trick, they produced and sold the hardware to college students, and used the funds generated to launch their computer company.

Mr Draper later wrote software for Apple’s early computers, helping connect them to phones as well as creating a word processing program.

He subsequently worked elsewhere in Silicon Valley, including a stint at software company Autodesk, as well as advising start-ups and giving conference speeches.

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Steve Wozniak has said he has no first-hand experience of misconduct by Mr Draper’s

Mr Wozniak wrote the foreword to Mr Draper’s forthcoming autobiography.

Buzzfeed said the Apple co-founder acknowledged having heard rumours of inappropriate behaviour by his ex-work colleague but added he had not seen it first-hand.

The publishers of Mr Draper’s book said they planned to make a donation to two autism charities.

But one of the recipients – UK-based Action for Aspergers – has rejected the offer.

“Consultation by said person before he declared an interest in our charity would have been preferable, as well as courteous… alas this did not happen,” its chief executive Elaine Nicholson told the BBC.

“We do not know this man, and certainly will not and cannot accept any donations from him if his character is truly tarnished and lives have been injured as a result.”



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