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Roberto Preatoni is the founder of Zone-H as well as WabiSabiLabi. He’s well respected in security circles and has even been a professor at the University of Urbino. This is not some malicious hacker. He’s a security professional. He’s also been a staunch advocate of civil liberties in the post 9/11 world.

Yesterday, he was arrested in Italy, on charges that are more than confusing (particularly since the news is mostly in Italian). There are even hints at charges of conspiracy to commit murder — which is utter nonsense.

ComputerWorld has a writeup which is the most lucid, and so we can put together the following fact pattern:

  • Preatoni was hired by Telecom Italia to perform pen testing — a completely legitimate, white-hack activity. He was hired as part of a group dubbed the “Tiger Team”.
  • However, a number of members of this team were charged earlier this year with spying on the CEO of Brasil Telecom and others — and this has been big news in Italy for months now.
  • Preatoni seems to have been caught up in this mess and has found himself charged with spying as well.

I find Preatoni’s alleged guilt quite hard to believe. Preatoni might have been controversial at times, but I find it more than highly unlikely that he would have used his skills to hack illegally.

The problem is that there is not an abundance of technology know-how in jurisprudence, and one can only hope that he gets treated fairly. The Italian press is probably going to sensationalize this story, which certainly isn’t going to help matters. As one of our researchers, who is Italian, put it to me, “…who knows. The press in Italy is so bad, they make stuff up all the time.”

More information is coming out later today, and we should be able to post some updates.

Alex Eckelberry