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Hacker behind AT&T iPad info breach gets 41-month sentence

updated 03:27 pm EDT, Mon March 18, 2013

Length of prison term generates criticism

One of the hackers behind a 2010 leak of 114,000 email addresses tied to AT&T iPad owners has been sentenced to 41 months in prison, reports say. Andrew Auernheimer was found guilty of conspiracy and identity fraud in November, and like co-defendant Daniel Spitler, has been ordered to pay AT&T $73,000 in damages. Spitler, though, received a 12- to 18-month prison sentence after pleading guilty in 2011.

Prosecutors originally recommended a four-year sentence for Auernheimer. Today's ruling has already generated some media controversy, since Auernheimer technically didn't hack AT&T. Instead he and Spitler wrote a script that generated numbers for iPad SIM cards, and used that information to get AT&T's website to return email addresses connected to real iPad owners. Those addresses also don't appear to have been used for malicious purposes.

Several factors contributed to the sentencing. Prosecutors for instance pointed to a Reddit Ask Me Anything thread, where Auernheimer appears to show relatively little remorse, saying that his only regret is being too nice to AT&T and giving them time to fix its security; he promises that he "won't nearly be as nice next time." They also cited accusations on Auernheimer's page on Encyclopedia Dramatica, despite the site being a publicly-edited spoof of Wikipedia.

The sentencing may also have been influenced by the email addresses that were exposed. While most of them belonged to regular iPad buyers, celebrities on the list included people like then-White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.

After Auernheimer's prison term is complete, he will still be subject to another three years of supervised release.

By Electronista Staff
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  1. Inkling

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: 07-25-06

    Justice: Unequal and foolish?

    Quote: "While most of them belonged to regular iPad buyers, celebrities on the list included people like then-White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg."

    So what difference does that make? I suspect a lot, given the aggressive prosecution and the sentencing. "One law for thee and another for me" has been the mantra of this administration (R. Emanuel). Regulating everything that moves is a trademark of NYC's control-obsessed Mayor Bloomberg.

    It's also foolish. Whether these sentences are harsh or not, they're regarded as such by hackers. Look for subsequent security exposures to be far less "nice." It won't be the partial data for 114,000 people. It's be all the data for millions of us. And they'll cover their tracks so well, the feds won't be able to can't catch them, however much those 'celebrities' may howl. There are some people you just shouldn't tick off.

    And no, I'm not a hacker, merely sensible. Someone else could have also gotten that insecure AT&T data and used it for far nastier purposes.

  1. slboett

    Grizzled Veteran

    Joined: 05-13-99


    D-bag. Why these morons don't use their incredible skills for something positive blows me away and p*sses me off. I only wish I could understand code like that. To bad they're morons too.

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