Profile of Edwin Robbe, who hacked the Netherlands’ largest telecom KPN as a teenager and cost the company €3M, before being found dead in South Korea — Edwin Robbe had a troubled life, but found excitement and purpose by joining an audacious community of hackers.
A teenage hacker lost himself online after leaving no trace of his actions
There was a time when Edwin Robbe was living a troubled life, but he found excitement and purpose when he joined an audacious community of hackers. As a result, his online activities were caught up with the real world as well.
When José Robbe left the office where she worked in Rotterdam, she noticed two people walking towards her. One of them was a man, and the other was a woman. There was a Tuesday afternoon, 20 March 2012, and it was a nice afternoon. Would you mind telling me if you are Mrs Robbe??? In response, she nodded her head. She explained that she was working for the police and that she was wearing jeans and a black windcheater. It would be a pleasure to speak with you for a few minutes. Your son, Edwin, is the subject of this letter. There is going to be an arrest.” José stared blankly at the ground. In response, the woman asked if she could accompany them on their journey. Despite his trepidation, José agreed to the offer.
As she got into the police car, the officer notified her that they would surprise her son at his family home in Barendrecht, which is just south of Rotterdam, and arrested him there and then. Her question was whether or not José would want to be present at the arrest of her son. As grimly as she could, she replied, “No, I don’t.”. Her heart ached in such a way that she felt as if she was betraying her son. It would be even worse if we stood by and watched this happen. José was taken to the plaza near the local supermarket a few blocks from her house by the police, who asked her for her house keys. Her heart ached as the officers rode away to arrest her 17-year-old eldest child, just a troubled teenager, she felt terrible about what had happened. Within a short period of time, three officers emerged from the house, and Edwin was escorted between them by three officers. It was clear that he wasn’t going to resist.
The detention center where Edwin was held was located in Houten, a town near the city of Utrecht. Having finally left his house, José was able to re-enter her house once he was gone. In the living room, she sat on the couch, watching as officers rummaged through the cabinets, went up and down the stairs, and grabbed flash drives, CD-Roms, and telephones that had been discarded.
I visited José and her husband, Ruud, several years after we had first met, at the terrace house they live in in Rotterdam, and they told me about Edwin, and I explained to them how I had been able to contact him.
After locating Edwin through a reliable source, obtaining his telephone number and making repeated attempts at contacting him, I eventually managed to make contact with him after repeated attempts. It was at first impossible to get a response back from him when I sent him WhatsApp messages. When he finally did reply, it came from a different number than the one he used to send me the message. I was interested in knowing why he had attacked the Netherlands’ largest telecom company and plunged it into chaos in the middle of the night. There was something I wanted to know about how he had learned to do what he did – and how he had handled things after he had been arrested.
There was a lot of erratic behavior in our chats. In one moment he would be effusive and engaging, and in the next, he would be distant and unresponsive. In some cases, a message would go unanswered for a number of days. He turned out to be in Asia at the time. There was also a time when we spoke on Skype. I was looking forward to meeting you. According to him, he did the same thing as well.
However, it was never going to happen. The death of Edwin happened just a few months before I visited his parents in their home. While we were talking, grief over the loss of their son suddenly reared its ugly head several times suddenly, as we talked. The last person to see Edwin alive was Ruud, and it still haunted him deeply even though he had just seen him for the last time.
At the age of less than a year old, Edwin was taken from his biological mother by his foster parents. On her own, she was unable to take care of an infant as she was on her own. He had not even been touched by her for months. As a result of Jose and Ruud’s foster care, Edwin was adopted. It was José who worked in the healthcare industry, and Ruud who was a chemical engineer with a company that processed ores for pigments. Baby Edwin was given a loving home by his parents as they wanted to give him a good life.