Menu
AT&T hacker Weev released from prison after appeals court overturns conviction

AT&T hacker Weev released from prison after appeals court overturns conviction

A federal appeals court has ruled that the venue for Auernheimer's prosecution wasn't appropriate

Andrew Auernheimer, known online as "weev," has won an appeal against his conviction for exploiting a vulnerability in AT&T's website to collect the email addresses of Apple iPad users. The 2010 incident earned him a 41-month prison sentence.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit overturned the verdict on Friday, finding that the venue where Auernheimer was charged and prosecuted was not appropriate because the alleged offenses did not happen there. It did not consider the other grounds for the appeal.

In June 2010, Auernheimer, a member of a Web security group called Goatse Security, together with a man named Daniel Spitler, exploited a vulnerability on the AT&T website to collect the email addresses of 114,000 new Apple iPad owners who had registered their devices with the telecommunication provider.

The men found that the AT&T website automatically completed a log-in form with email addresses that were associated with SIM card serial numbers (ICC-ID) passed through a URL. The men built a program that took advantage of this feature to extract the email addresses of AT&T iPad users by submitting random ICC-IDs in what was essentially a brute force attack. The two men then contacted various media organizations to make the security issue public.

Spitler and Auernheimer were charged in Newark, New Jersey, with identity theft and conspiracy to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). Spitler pleaded guilty and received probation, but Auernheimer unsuccessfully fought the charges in a jury trial and was sentenced to 41 months in prison, a sentence that he began serving in March 2013.

Auernheimer's defense team, which included Hanni Fakhoury, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, argued that accessing a publicly available website does not constitute unauthorized access to a computer system under the CFAA and that he shouldn't have been charged in New Jersey.

On Friday, the federal appeals court agreed that the venue for the case hadn't been appropriate and ordered Auernheimer released from prison.

"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 appeals court said in a written opinion. "New Jersey was not the site of either essential conduct element. The evidence at trial demonstrated that the accessed AT&T servers were located in Dallas, Texas, and Atlanta, Georgia. In addition, during the time that the conspiracy began, continued, and ended, Spitler was obtaining information in San Francisco, California, and Auernheimer was assisting him from Fayetteville, Arkansas. No protected computer was accessed and no data was obtained in New Jersey."

In a statement on the EFF site, Fakhoury said that Auernheimer's prosecution "presented real threats to security research" and that he hopes the appeals court's decision will reassure the security community.


Follow Us

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags cybercrimelegalCriminalElectronic Frontier FoundationIdentity fraud / theft

Featured

Slideshows

Meet the Reseller News 30 Under 30 Tech Awards 2020 winners

Meet the Reseller News 30 Under 30 Tech Awards 2020 winners

This year’s Reseller News 30 Under 30 Tech Awards were held as an integral part of the first entirely virtual Emerging Leaders​ forum, an annual event dedicated to identifying, educating and showcasing the New Zealand technology market’s rising stars. The 30 Under 30 Tech Awards 2020 recognised the outstanding achievements and business excellence of 30 talented individuals​, across both young leaders and those just starting out. In this slideshow, Reseller News honours this year's winners and captures their thoughts about how their ideas of leadership have changed over time.​

Meet the Reseller News 30 Under 30 Tech Awards 2020 winners
Reseller News Exchange Auckland: Beyond the myths — how partners can master cloud security

Reseller News Exchange Auckland: Beyond the myths — how partners can master cloud security

This exclusive Reseller News Exchange event in Auckland explored the challenges facing the partner community on the cloud security frontier, as well as market trends, customer priorities and how the channel can capitalise on the opportunities available. In association with Arrow, Bitdefender, Exclusive Networks, Fortinet and Palo Alto Networks. Photos by Gino Demeer.

Reseller News Exchange Auckland: Beyond the myths — how partners can master cloud security
Reseller News welcomes industry figures at 2020 Hall of Fame lunch

Reseller News welcomes industry figures at 2020 Hall of Fame lunch

Reseller News welcomed 2019 inductees - Leanne Buer, Ross Jenkins and Terry Dunn - to the fourth running of the Reseller News Hall of Fame lunch, held at the French Cafe in Auckland. The inductees discussed the changing face of the IT channel ecosystem in New Zealand and what it means to be a Reseller News Hall of Fame inductee. Photos by Gino Demeer.

Reseller News welcomes industry figures at 2020 Hall of Fame lunch
Show Comments