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Attacks/Breaches

7/7/2011
11:07 AM
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'Weev' Indicted In iPad User-Data Theft Case

Second Goatse Security member now faces official charges for allegedly hacking into AT&T servers and grabbing iPad user information

A hacker arrested for allegedly breaking into AT&T's servers and stealing personal information on 120,000 iPad users was indicted yesterday by a grand jury in Newark, N.J.

Andrew Auernheimer, a.k.a. "weev" and a member of the Goatse Security organization, was charged with one count of conspiracy for unauthorized access to computers and another count for identity theft, according to a Reuters report.

Another defendant in the case and member of Goatse Security, Daniel Spitler, pleaded guilty to identical charges last month. He faces up to 18 months in prison.

The men last year found a business logic flaw in AT&T's website application that exposed the email addresses of iPad customers, including some high-profile ones like former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

In an interview with Dark Reading last year, Auernheimer, a security analyst with Goatse Security, said his firm "did the right thing" by going public about the hole in AT&T's website on Gawker. They gave the email addresses to Gawker, but with the stipulation that Gawker would not publish the addresses. "Our disclosure process was extremely proper and above and beyond," Auernheimer said in the interview. "Many researchers do not wait for patches" before they disclose, he says.

"What influenced our decision was that there were so many people who were stewards of important infrastructure on the public and private list [exposed]," he says. "Someone else could have scraped this data."

But AT&T saw it much differently. In a letter to Apple 3G iPad owners, Dorothy Attwood, a senior vice president and chief privacy officer at AT&T, said: "On June 7 we learned that unauthorized computer 'hackers' maliciously exploited a function designed to make your iPad log-in process faster by pre-populating an AT&T authentication page with the email address you used to register your iPad for 3G service. The hackers deliberately went to great efforts with a random program to extract possible ICC-IDs and capture customer email addresses. They then put together a list of these emails and distributed it for their own publicity."

Auernheimer, whose case is being handled by the Newark public defender's office, has been free on bail. He did not respond to requests for an interview on the indictment.

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Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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