One of the men accused of hacking into AT&Ts network and stealing email accounts and other information belonging to about 120,000 iPad users has been released on bail.
Andrew Auernheimer was released from custody on Monday on $50,000 bond, IDG News reported, and the U.S. Department of Justice said he will be working on a friends New Jersey company as a computer consultant while out of jail.
Last month, federal authorities charged Auernheimer of Fayetteville, Ark. and Daniel Spitler of San Francisco, with one count each of conspiracy to access a computer without authorization and one count of fraud in connection with personal information. Auernheimer and Spitler, ages 25 and 26 at the time of their arrest, wrote a script that retrieved personal information of iPad users without their authorization by fooling AT&T’s servers into believing they were communicating with an actual iPad, according to a criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.
Federal authorities allege the defendants released the stolen information to the website Gawker, which reported that the security breach exposed an exclusive e-mail list of iPad owners, including such notable names as New York Mayer Michael Bloomberg, film producer Harvey Weinstein and Diane Sawyer of ABC News.
A series of Internet instant messaging chats between Auernheimer and Spitler reveal that the defendants conducted the breach to simultaneously damage AT&T and promote themselves and Goatse Security,” an association of Internet hackers and trolls” who disrupt content and services on the Web, according to a Jan. 18 press release issued by the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey.
Auernheimer said in interviews he was trying to make AT&T aware of a serious security flaw. But federal authorities dont appear to care about the defendants motives.
Unauthorized intrusions into personal privacy adversely affect individual citizens, businesses, and even national security,” said Michael Ward, special agent in charge of the FBIs Newark field office, in a statement last month. Such intrusion cases, regardless if their 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.”
If convicted of the charges, Auernheimer and Spitler could face time behind bars and/or a hefty fine. Each count carriers a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.