ABC News reports that two men have been charged with hacking AT&T's servers and stealing the private information of nearly 120,000 iPad users including such notables as Hollywood heavyweight Harvey Weinstein, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and President Obama's former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. Some have called the men "Internet trolls" because of the way they allegedly bragged about it online. The security breach occurred during the initial release of Apple's iPad, according to court documents.
The two are 26-year-old Daniel Spitler of San Francisco, and 25-year-old Andrew Auernheimer of Fayetteville, Ark. Both received a charge of fraud and conspiracy to access a computer without authorization. The charges were announced by the U.S. prosecutors office in Newark, N.J.
According to the complaint filed by the FBI in Newark this week, Spitler and Auernheimer allegedly used a "brute force hack tactic" over the course of several days on AT&T servers. After breaching security, the duo uncovered email addresses related to 120,000 iPad accounts.
After the attack, Gawker.com was allegedly supplied with information obtained during the hack from the group Goatse Security, described in the complaint as a "loose association of internet hackers" that Spitler and Auernheimer were allegedly associated with.
The court papers cite that Gawker report. Around 120,000 emails were captured including notable personalities and politicians such as Bloomberg, Weinstein, Rahm Emanuel, ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer, and several Department of Defense employees.
Auernheimer and Spitler also allegedly talked about the hack in chat logs, which were given to the FBI. The FBI says that Auernheimer also took credit for the attack in an email he sent to the U.S. Attorney's office in New Jersey in November.
"AT&T needs to be held accountable for their insecure infrastructure as a public utility and we must defend the rights of consumers, over the rights of shareholders," he wrote, according to the complaint.
While Auernheimer claimed to do this in the name of exposing a security flaw to AT&T to protect iPad users, the FBI isn't buying that explanation: they see it purely as a crime done simply for thrills or notoriety:
"Hacking is not a competitive sport, and security breaches are not a game. Companies that are hacked can suffer significant losses, and their customers made vulnerable to other crimes, privacy violations, and unwanted contact," U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman tells ABC News.
"Unauthorized intrusions into personal privacy adversely affect individual citizens, businesses, and even national security," said Michael Ward, special agent in charge of the FBI's Newark field office. "Such intrusion cases, regardless of the motive is criminal gain or prestige among peers in the cyber-hacking world, must and will be aggressively pursued to ensure these rights are protected to the highest degree."
The ABC News report also points to a 2008 interview that Auernheimer did with the New York Times:
"I hack, I ruin, I make piles of money. I make people afraid for their lives," he said to the Times.
The FBI also claims that the men wanted to make money off the stolen data.. in the stock market. During one online conversation between the two, they discussed holding off on announcing the security breach so they could "short AT&T stock."
The logs, which were handed over to the FBI by an anonymous source last summer, are part of the court documents filed this week, according to Computer World. Spitler surrendered to the FBI in Newark on Tuesday and is scheduled to appear in federal court. Auernheimer is scheduled to appear in federal court in Fayetteville. Neither men have entered a plea.
Source: ABC News