One of the richest men in France claims to be a former spy who once hacked former President Francois Mitterrand.
The billionaire co-owner of Le Monde newspaper, Xavier Niel, 52, told the Parliamentary Channel that as a teen in the 1980s he worked undercover for the Directorate of Territorial Surveillance after he was caught hacking the French channel Canal+.
“I was a sort of part-time correspondent who would tell them regularly what we’re finding, what we were seeing, in our world of hacking,” Niel told the Channel, adding the security service asked him to help explain the new, technological cyber world to them
Niel claims he was tasked with hacking into the mobile telephone of President Mitterrand in 1986 as well as the car company Renault. In the process he found that Renault was being hacked by people from Australia who were downloading large chunks of data.
“We were doing all this for ourselves as a game and we would pass on the information,” Niel said. “It was just fun. It was thrilling to get around the system. They told us it was impossible.”
President Mitterrand’s administration was “later caught up in a phone hacking scandal dubbed the ‘French Watergate’ where he had the phones of hundreds of French personalities tapped,” according to the Daily Mail.
The telecommunications tycoon didn’t say how the information he gathered was used, but noted that he wanted to share details about his teenage hacking years “as an example for kids today to show how you can do silly things and come good.”