Daniel Spitler, AT&T iPad hacker, compared to LulzSec, Anonymous by federal authorities
A U.S. attorney compared Daniel Spitler, one of two men accused of hacking AT&T servers and stealing personal data and emails from about 120,000 iPad users, to the hacker groups LulzSec and Anonymous after the man admitted to writing "malicious code" to pull off the iPad security breach.
Spitler, 26, pleaded guilty to "one count of conspiracy to gain unauthorized access to computers connected to the Internet and one count of identity theft" before a U.S. district judge in a Newark, N.J., federal court on Thursday afternoon, the U.S. Department of Justice said.
"Hacks have serious implications -- from the personal devastation of a stolen identity to danger to our national security," U.S. Atty. Paul J. Fishman said in a statement. "In the wake of other recent hacking attacks by loose-knit organizations like Anonymous and LulzSec, Daniel Spitler's guilty plea is a timely reminder of the consequences of treating criminal activity as a competitive sport."
After pleading guilty, Spitler faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, the Department of Justice said. The San Francisco man is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 28.
Spitler's codefendant, 25-year-old Andrew Auernheimer, hasn't pleaded guilty to the hacking charges and is set to face federal prosecution in Newark.
The Department of Justice accused the men of being members of Goatse Security, a group of hackers who attack various Web services and in entering his guilty plea, Spitler admitted to being connected to the group.
Federal prosecutors have said in court documents that the victims included New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer and Rahm Emanuel, Chicago's mayor who was the White House chief of staff at the time of the hacks, as well as a number of business executives.
In June 2010, Goatse Security posted a letter on its website about the AT&T hacks after the group received widespread media attention for the attack on iPad users saying that it destroyed the personal and email data it took once the hack was completed.
"When we disclosed this, we did it as a service to our nation," a Goatse member identifying himself as Escher Auernheimer wrote in the letter. "We love America and the idea of the Russians or Chinese being able to subvert American infrastructure is a nightmare. We understand that good deeds many times go punished, and AT&T is trying to crucify us over this."
-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: Daniel Spitler, 26, of San Francisco, leaves U.S. District Court in Newark, N.J., on Jan. 18. Credit: Bill Kostroun / Associated Press