Madonna Hacker Suspect Arrested in Israel
Police in Israel have arrested a local man on suspicion of hacking into Madonna's computer and releasing demo versions of songs on her new album Rebel Heart online.
Israeli television's Channel 2 news reports that the 39-year-old was arrested Wednesday following a month-long investigation involving a private investigation firm and the cyber crime unit of Israel's Lahav 433, a crime-fighting organization comparable to the FBI.
According to a statement by Lahav 433, the suspect "broke into the personal computers of several international artists over the past few months and stole promotional final-cut singles which have yet to be released and traded them online for a fee." It added: "In light of the findings of the investigation the unit collaborated closely with the FBI, with suspicion of even more break-ins to computers owned by unknown international artists, stealing and selling their works."
Several demos from Madonna's Rebel Heart album leaked online in December, a move the artist called "artist rape" and "a form of terrorism."
"This case highlights the international scope of online criminal activity and the need for close cooperation between nations as we collectively identify and bring to justice those who pose a threat in cyberspace," an FBI spokesperson told The Wrap.
Speaking to Billboard, Madonna's longtime manager Guy Oseary called the leak "devastating" and said it prompted the surprise pre-release of six songs from Rebel Heart on Dec. 20 on iTunes.
While an official gag order has been issued on the suspect's name, local reports have already surfaced identifying the man as a former contestant on one of Israel's most popular singing competition TV shows. The suspect is said to have allegedly broken into several musicians' personal computers, but it was the Madonna leak that led to the investigation.
Tel Aviv-based investigations firm Wizman Yaar Investigations released a statement saying it began looking into the case after receiving a complaint from Oseary's office. According to the statement, it sent an agent to New York "to check the singer's personal computer, confirming there was indeed a break in from a computer in Israel."
The firm said it then traced the source of the computer to Tel Aviv and contacted Lahav 433, which continued the formal investigation. The resulting in a warrant to search the suspect's home, culminating in the arrest.
Additional reporting by Azri Amram.