Mahalo CEO: Why we risked employing convicted hacker

All developers push the envelope when they are young, "Anyone in technology knows this dark, dirty little secret," says the head of a search engine start up after a staff member was jailed for four years for cyber fraud.


Jason Calacanis, founder and CEO of search engine start-up, defends his decision to allow former security researcher John Schiefer to continuing working at his firm even after discovering he was a convicted felon.

Schiefer was sentenced to four years in prison last week after pleading guilty in 2007 to illegal access to computers, illegal interception of data and wire fraud. He is the first person to be charged under federal wiretap statutes for using a botnet to steal data and commit fraud.

Schiefer and his accomplices infected more than 250,000 PCs, and stole usernames and passwords they used to break into PayPal and other financial accounts.

Calacanis, who was at the sentencing, expressed in a blog post his support for Schiefer, and wished that he had been sentenced to supervised home arrest instead of incarceration in a federal penitentiary.

Calacanis said that when Mahalo first hired Schiefer, the company did not know about his background. And when it found out about his crime, the company could have fired him on the spot because that was the "easy choice," Calacanis wrote.

"But rather than do that, the company decided to give Schiefer another chance, after hearing about his tough childhood, his anger issues and how he'd found a level of peace by being at Mahalo.

Calacanis said that while Schiefer might have been an "angry stupid kid" when he launched his botnet attacks, all developers pushed the envelope when they were young. "Anyone in technology knows this dark, dirty little secret," Calacanis said in his blog.

Calacanis detailed whsy he supported Schiefer in the folllowing email interview.

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