Wikipedia defines cybercrime as “any crime that involves a computer and a network. The computer may have been used in the commission of a crime, or it may be the target. A computer can be a source of evidence. Even though the computer is not directly used for criminal purposes, it is an excellent device for record keeping, particularly given the power to encrypt the data. If this evidence can be obtained and decrypted, it can be of great value to criminal investigators”.
The AT&T iPad hacking case
More than 100,000 Apple iPad users were a victim of data breach after the hackers accessed AT&T’s servers. Last June, Daniel Spitler of San Francisco, Calif., and Andrew Auernheimer of Fayetteville, Ark. broke into a computer without user authorization. They tried to obtain email addresses from the SIM card addresses of at least 114,000 iPad 3G users. Initially the attack appeared to be a sophisticated hack, the actual exploit used an automated script to submit HTTP requests for thousands of possible serial numbers and collect AT&T’s responses.
Post-breach, AT&T issued a statement. “This issue was escalated to the highest levels of the company and was corrected by Tuesday. We are continuing to investigate and will inform all customers whose e-mail addresses… may have been obtained,”.
How Daniel pilfered AT&T’s servers?
Daniel Spitler wrote a script called the “iPad 3G Account Slurper” and used it to access AT&T servers thereby getting info on e-mail addresses and associated unique iPad numbers. Spitler got in touch with co-defendant Andrew Auernheimer over Internet Relay Chat and they both hatched the plan of taking advantage of the Web site hole and the data from 100,000 accounts that was exposed.
Update on the case
Daniel Spitler has pleaded guilty to breaking into AT&T’s systems and obtaining the email addresses of iPad users. He is allegedly member of the Goatse Security hacking group. Spitler faces up to 10 years in prison and, $500,000 in fines on one count of conspiracy to gain unauthorized access to computers and on one count of identity theft. He is scheduled to be sentenced September 28 in Newark federal court.
Andrew Auernheimer was arrested January 18 in Fayetteville, Ark., while appearing in state court. Charges against him are still pending. He had pleaded not-guilty saying that he and his Goatse Security hacking group were planning to warn AT&T about the hole and notifying iPad 3G customers about the exposure of their data. But the chat logs were evidence enough to point out that they had not contacted AT&T.
“The magnitude of this crime affected everyone from high ranking members of the White House staff to the average American citizen,” said Michael B. Ward, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Newark Division. “It’s important to note that it wasn’t just the hacking itself that was criminal, but what could potentially occur utilizing the pilfered information.”
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