AT&T hacker seeks sentencing leniency

Lawyers claim iPad 3G account hacker Andrew Auernheimer's exploits did not cause any actual damage

By , Computerworld |  Data Protection

Andrew Auernheimer, a hacker who was convicted last November of illegally accessing emails and other data belonging to 120,000 iPad 3G owners from AT&T's networks is seeking leniency in his sentencing from the court.

In a memo filed Wednesday in United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, Auemheimer's lawyers maintained their client did not deserve to be jailed for his actions. Rather than years in prison, Auemheimer deserved only months of non-custodial probation, the memo noted.

"The sentence which the Defense suggests to the court ... would be adequate but no greater than necessary to accomplish the purposes of sentence," the memo said.

Auernheimer was found guilty last November on charges of conspiracy to access a computer without authorization and fraud in connection with personal information. Prosecutors have recommended that Auernheimer receive a sentence of 33 to 41 months when he comes up for sentencing on March 18.

Auernheimer made headlines in June 2010 when he and co-accused Daniel Spitler used an automated script they called iPad 3G Account Slurper to extract email addresses and SIM card ID numbers of more than 100,000 iPad owners from AT&T's servers. The duo claimed they carried out the exercise to demonstrate how AT&T was leaking the data via its Web site.

The data accessed by Auernheimer and Spitler included email addresses belonging to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York Times CEO Janet Robinson, ABC's Diane Sawyer, movie producer Harvey Weinstein, former White House chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel and numerous others. The data ended up being posted publicly on Gawker and other websites.

Auernheimer, and Spitler claimed they pulled the hack purely to highlight the vulnerability on AT&Ts network. Prosecutors however saw it differently.

Aurenheimer was arrested in 2011 on charges of identify theft and conspiracy to gain unauthorized access to computers.

In their complaint, prosecutors noted that Auernheimer, who used the online handle "weev," not only took credit for the breach but openly boasted about it to the media and others. They described Goatse Security, the hacker group that Auernheimer belonged to, as a group of trolls bent on disrupting services and content on the Internet.

The federal complaint against the two defendants contained numerous excerpts of interviews with the media where Aurenheimer boasted of his hacking abilities. One excerpt is from a 2008 interview with the The New York Times where Auernheimer is quoted as saying, "I hack, I ruin, I make piles of money. I make people afraid for their lives."

Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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