Spain: 4 engineers investigated over 'Phineas Fisher' hack

Features Associated Press

In this Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017 photo, a computer screen shows an archived copy of the Twitter feed belonging to Phineas Fisher, a hacker who claimed responsibility for breaching the union of the Mossos d'Esquadra, Catalonia's regional police, last ... year. Spanish police have arrested three people over a data breach linked to a series of dramatic intrusions at European spy software companies — feeding speculation that the net has closed on an online Robin Hood figure known as Phineas Fisher. (AP Photo/Raphael Satter) (The Associated Press)

Four people are being formally investigated in Spain on suspicion of breaking into a police union website last year, Catalan Police said Thursday.

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The force's announcement gave further detail on arrests that started a swirl of speculation over the fate of Phineas Fisher, a Robin Hood-like figure who has claimed responsibility for exposing state surveillance operations around the world and last year boasted of being behind the police union breach.

The announcement did little to clear up the key question of whether or not the net had closed on the notorious hacker, however.

A spokesman for the Catalan police force, known locally as Mossos d'Esquadra, said Thursday it was too early to establish any connection between the four arrests and Phineas Fisher. In an earlier exchange of emails with The Associated Press, Phineas Fisher — or someone acting in their name — denied any link to the arrests.

"It's possible the people arrested retweeted or otherwise spread the leaked police info which might be a crime in Spain, or it's possible the police just arrested some random hacktivist-type people, I have no idea," the person said, adding: "My 'career' as Phineas Fisher is over, I just came back online to address the reports that Spanish police arrested me."

Authorities described the people in custody as information technology engineers, saying they had used the privacy-protecting network Tor to hide their tracks but that a mistake led investigators to a 33-year-old man in Salamanca. A man, 31, and a woman, 33, were later arrested in Barcelona. The fourth man turned himself in Thursday.

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It was unclear who if anyone was representing the unnamed suspects. Police did not provide the AP with information on their lawyers.

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Satter contributed from Paris.