Categories: SecurityWorkspace

AT&T ‘Hacker’ Weev Free From Jail

Andrew ‘Weev’ Auernheimer, who was imprisoned last year over a breach of A&T website, has been set free, although not because he was found innocent of the crimes for which he was convicted.

The Third US Circuit Court of Appeals said it had decided Weev’s case should not have been heard in the District of New Jersey, so it reversed the decision and freed Auernheimer.

Weev was initially jailed over a breach of an AT&T server that hosted iPad 3G customer names. The hack, which revealed emails of iPad users thanks to a trick that exploited AT&T’s linking of the Apple device’s Integrated Circuit Card Identifier to emails used for logins, was actually carried out by Daniel Spitler.

Using a brute force method, Spitler got hold of 114,000 email addresses in mid-2010, before informing Weev of what happened. Auernheimer then told the press, who told AT&T, which then fixed the issue, before taking legal proceedings against Weev.

Weev freed

He was jailed for 41 months. Many were appalled by the outcome of the trial, saying it showed how apparently minor crimes could be punished harshly under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the same law which was used against the late Internet activist Aaron Swartz.

The appeals court said that none of the parties involved in the case, apart from 4,500 iPad users whose email addresses were compromised, were based in New Jersey, so the case should not have been heard in the district. Neither of the two charges directed at Weev, one for identity fraud, the other for accessing a computer without proper authorisation, will be looked at again.

“Although this appeal raises a number of complex and novel issues that are of great public importance in our increasingly interconnected age, we find it necessary to reach only one that has been fundamental since our country’s founding: venue,” the court said.

“The proper place of colonial trials was so important to the founding generation that it was listed as a grievance in the Declaration of Independence.”

Spitler, meanwhile, is serving three years probation, after pleading guilty in January.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation was delighted with the decision, saying the conviction posed serious threats to security research.

“We’re thrilled that the Third Circuit reversed Mr. Auernheimer’s conviction,” said EFF staff attorney Hanni Fakhoury. “This prosecution presented real threats to security research. Hopefully this decision will reassure that community.”

Weev, who was known as an Internet troll as well as a security researcher, has been busy on Twitter since his release. “If people would show up with guns to defend Internet freedoms in addition to grazing cattle, liberty might have a future in this world,” read one tweet.

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Thomas Brewster

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

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