Posted in: Tattle, Technology

Leave no trace: how a teenage hacker lost himself online

Edwin Robbe had a troubled life, but found excitement and purpose by joining an audacious community of hackers. Then the real world caught up with his online activities

José Robbe was leaving her place of work in Rotterdam when she saw a man and a woman walking towards her. It was a Tuesday afternoon, 20 March 2012. “Are you Mrs Robbe?” She nodded. The woman, who was wearing jeans and a black windcheater, explained that she was with the police. “I’d like to talk to you for a minute. It’s about your son, Edwin. We’re arresting him.” José stared, frozen. The woman asked if she would accompany them. Warily, José agreed.

At the police car, the officer told her they intended to surprise her son at the family home in Barendrecht, just south of Rotterdam, and arrest him on the spot. She asked if José wanted to be there for her son’s arrest. “No,” she replied grimly. It felt as if she had just betrayed her son. To stand by and watch would make it even worse. The police asked José for her house keys and dropped her off at a plaza by the local supermarket a few blocks from her house. She felt terrible as the officers drove away to arrest her eldest child, just a troubled 17-year-old. A little while later, three officers emerged from the house, escorting Edwin between them. He offered no resistance.