Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Weev
Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer, the hacker who called attention to AT&T’s poor security by releasing hundreds of thousands of iPad owners’ email addresses, will be sentenced in a New Jersey court on Monday for computer crimes.Despite facing as much as 10 years in jail, he is unrepentant, he made clear in a recent, profanity-laced phone interview with Business Insider.
“Just throw me in prison at this point,” Auernheimer said.
In 2010, Auernheimer and a compatriot, Daniel Spitler, discovered that visiting an unsecured AT&T Web server and entering a number associated with the customer’s wireless account allowed him to obtain that customer’s email address.
By altering the number and repeatedly querying the server, Auernheimer and Spitler were able to obtain hundreds of thousands of email addresses, which they then released to Gawker.
In 2011, Spitler pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to obtain unauthorised access to computers and one count of identity theft, charges which carried as 12-18-month prison sentence.
Auernheimer, who estimates he and his supporters have spent $250,000 to $300,000 fighting his prosecution, wasn’t willing to plea guilty, arguing that all he did was access a public Web server—an action which, if the prosecution’s logic is followed, would make all Internet users criminals.
“I’m going to tell everyone in that court what they deserve,” Auernheimer told us. “I’m not going to go, ‘Oh, what I did is so terrible, I’m so sorry.'”
Asked to write a statement accepting responsibility prior to sentencing, Auernheimer instead wrote a fiery letter of protest on TechCrunch.
“I’m going to defend people’s right to access public web APIs until the day I die,” Auernheimer said. (An API, or application programming interface, is a way for one application to access data from another application—in this case, AT&T’s system for providing a user’s email address.)
Auernheimer compared his prosecution to that of Aaron Swartz, the Reddit cofounder who recently committed suicide after learning that Assistant United States Attorney Stephen Heymann was seeking jail time in pursuing charges that Swartz illegally accessed MIT’s network to download millions of academic articles from JSTOR.
“A sane society would lynch [Heymann] in the square—him and his boss, Carmen Ortiz,” Auernheimer said.
And how does Auernheimer feel about his prosecutors?
For once, Auernheimer held back.
“I probably shouldn’t comment on that,” he said with a laugh.
As for jail? Auernheimer says he intends to continue “trolling,” or performing stunts and other actions in hopes of provoking a response, even without regular access to a computer.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Auernheimer said. “I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of trolling done from a prison cell. I can knock a good one on Western civilisation just by writing letters.”
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