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Hacker Arrested in Billboard Porn Stunt

Police in the southern city of Novorossiisk have arrested a man accused of hacking into a video billboard in Moscow last month and showing a pornographic movie that spawned a traffic jam as curious drivers slowed to watch the film.

The suspected hacker, a 41-year-old unemployed man, was arrested in Novorossiisk and released Tuesday after promising to remain in the city, the Interior Ministry's high-tech crime department said in a statement.

Police released neither the man's name nor the date he was arrested but said he had been hacking into computers out of "curiosity" and to "sharpen his skills."

On the night of Jan. 14, the video appeared on a 9-by-6 meter roadside video billboard on the Garden Ring Road, near the Serpukhovskaya metro station.

It played for about 20 minutes as traffic ground to a halt, with many drivers filming the spectacle on their cell phones and later reposting the footage on the Internet.

Police said the hacker used the IP-address of an organization based in Chechnya to break into the Moscow server and post the video on the billboard. He has admitted that he was behind the stunt but said he merely wanted to entertain people, not create a furor, police said.

The suspect claimed that he intended to show the video not on the billboard, but at a Moscow store, the Interior Ministry statement said. He said he was confident that police would never make it to Chechnya to investigate the case, police said.

He faces charges of illegal distribution of pornography and gaining illegal computer access. If convicted, he faces up to two years in prison.

The incident prompted the Moscow Advertising Committee to ban video billboards on the streets of Moscow.

Earlier this month, the committee tightened rules for video billboards to make them less susceptible to hacker attacks. Billboard operators should be able to switch the signs off immediately in case of emergency.

The Krasnodar regional branch of the Federal Drug Control Service said Tuesday that the suspect had previously faced charges of dealing marijuana in Novorossiisk while working as a taxi driver, Interfax reported.

He had previously worked as a systems administrator but was laid off, Interfax said.

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