Court To Sentence AT&T Hacker Andrew Auernheimer

A hacker who released more than 100,000 AT&T customer email addresses will be sentenced in a federal courtroom in New Jersey on Monday. Andrew Auernheimer exposed a security flaw on AT&T's iPad service.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with a hacking sentence.

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MONTAGNE: This morning, a federal court in New Jersey is scheduled to sentence Andrew for his much-publicized exposure of a security flaw on AT&T's iPad service. That was back in 2010.

As NPR's Martin Kaste reports, the sentencing of Andrew Auernheimer will be closely watched by those who believe federal prosecutors have become overly zealous about punishing certain kinds of hackers.

MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: Auernheimer is not a pleasant person, at least not online. He calls himself a troll, and he seems to delight in sounding racist or just plain inflammatory - it's hard to figure out where the irony starts and stops. But he sounds earnest enough when he says he did society a favor by taking more than 100,000 iPad users' email addresses from an AT&T website and then went public.

Chris Hoofnagle, who specializes in Technology and Public Policy at Berkeley Law, says this kind of online mischief might have some benefit.

CHRIS HOOFNAGLE: After all, we are talking about transparency, and many of us exist in a kind of Disneyland of false belief that these systems are well-secured and impervious against wrong-doers.

KASTE: In recent weeks, Auernheimer has identified with Aaron Swartz, one of the creators of reddit, and an Internet activist who committed suicide in January. Swartz was also facing prosecution under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

But Auerheimer's case is somewhat muddied by his apparent failure to warn AT&T of the vulnerability before he publicized it. He was convicted on two felony counts last fall, and each charge carries a potential maximum of five years in prison.

Martin Kaste, NPR News.

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