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The New Political Prisoners: Leakers, Hackers and Activists

Andrew Auernheimer


Andrew Auernheimer
AP Photo/Julio Cortez
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WHO: Andrew "Weev" Auernheimer, 27

THE CHARGE: For years, Weev was most infamous as an Internet troll, using his hacking skills for provocative, often racist and homophobic ends. He once told The New York Times Magazine that he makes "people afraid for their lives." But that's not why he's in trouble with the law. In June of 2010, Daniel Spitler, Auernheimer's co-defendant, discovered that AT&T was not protecting its web database of iPad user accounts. Auernheimer and Spitler wrote a computer script that collected customer email addresses and names, and Auernheimer then shared that information with the website Gawker in order to expose the hole in AT&T's data security.

PROBLEMS WITH THE CASE: All of the data that Auernheimer and Spitler "stole" was not encrypted, which means that anyone could have gained access to it. Exposing security flaws to companies so that they can be fixed is a mainstay of hacking. Many Internet security experts believe that Auernheimer's conviction could make other "white hat" hackers less willing to point out such flaws, leaving people less secure online.

THE PUNISHMENT: On November 20, 2012, Auernheimer was convicted of identity theft and conspiracy to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (the same law under which Aaron Swartz was charged). He faces up to 10 years in prison.


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