Controversial iPad Hacker Sentenced to Prison Term

Dennis Faas's picture

A man who illegally accessed personal data stored on Apple iPads has been sentenced to a 41-month prison term. However, defenders of Andrew Auernheimer believe the sentence is unduly harsh and question whether his actions should even be considered a crime.

Auernheimer was among a group of computer enthusiasts who discovered a flaw in AT&T's security. They were able to access the registered email addresses of 114,000 iPad owners, along with the identity numbers of SIM cards in 3G models of the iPad.

Several high-profile figures were affected, including news presenter Diane Sawyer and New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg. (Source:

Although Auernheimer did not publish the information, he provided the data to online media company Gawker, which published some of the data but with the most sensitive details removed.

Auernheimer and colleague Daniel Spitler were both arrested and charged with fraud and conspiring to access an unauthorized server. Spitler pleaded guilty and is still awaiting sentence. Aurenheimer denied the charge but was convicted.

Outspoken Hacker Had Already Gained Reputation

Prosecutors insisted on a harsh sentence because Auernheimer had shown no remorse. They cited several interviews in which Auernheimer, who was known in hacker communities as "Weev," had boasted of his ability to make money from his hacking activities.

Auernheimer's defense team argued that not only did the defendant not make any money from accessing the AT&T files, but that he didn't cause any direct harm to AT&T or its customers.

Some tech commentators have questioned whether it is fair to label Auernheimer's actions 'hacking.' Although he did access the AT&T server without authorization, he was taking advantage of a security flaw that inadvertently made the data accessible. (Source:

Convicted Ordered to Pay Compensation

The judge in the case dismissed these arguments and handed down a jail sentence of three years and five months. It's a stiff sentence and is close to the jail term originally requested by the prosecution team.

As well as serving jail time, Auernheimer will have to pay compensation of $73,000 to AT&T. This will cover the costs incurred by AT&T when contacting customers affected by the security breach.

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