Palin Hackers Face Jail Time

by on September 18, 2008 · 15 comments

From triumph to terror—that’s the likely emotional rollercoaster of the denizens of the “/b” message board on the 4chan website who hacked into Gov. Sarah Palin’s email account earlier this week. The toasts of the left-learning Internet on Tuesday, by this morning they knew themselves to be in the crosshairs of the FBI and Secret Service.

Next stop: jail. That’s the law, and it’s a fair punishment for digital breaking and entering.

According to British tech tabloid The Register, the hackers accessed Palin’s Yahoo account by way of a proxy, relaying all traffic through it to cloak their identities. The proxy’s owner promises to make his log data available to authorities, and it’s probably only a matter of time before that leads to living, breathing (nervous, sweating?) people.

The most likely charge is hacking. Federal law prohibits virtual trespassing for the purposes of stealing information. So cracking the password to a governor’s email account and perusing her messages is a clear violation. The punishment: criminal fines and imprisonment of up to 5 years.

Throw in a few conspiracy offenses—according to reports, a slew of “/b-tards” were in on the act—and the prison term could double.

No, going after a major party’s vice presidential candidate was not smart: Police and prosecutors put extra effort into famous crimes.

As for the media publishing Palin’s emails and family photos, shame on them, but it’s not against the law. In Bartnicki v. Vopper, the Supreme Court held that they have a First Amendment right to publish materials of public importance, even if illegally obtained, so long as the media doing the publishing committed no wrong itself.

But just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s right. No one deserves to have their private correspondence stolen (not, as per the AP, “leaked”) and posted online for the world to see. It speaks to Palin’s classiness that nothing objectionable—not even a cuss—has come to light. Too bad that the press and online gossip-mongers don’t share that trait and take the material down.

  • Ryan Radia

    A couple questions for the lawyers out there–
    First, some reports say the alleged hackers simply guessed the answer to Palin's password reset question, rather than attempt to crack or brute force her account. Is this at all relevant from a legal standpoint?
    Second, if it's true that Palin was conducting official government business via her Yahoo account in order to get around public records disclosure rules, is there a realistic chance that she will be investigated for committing a crime?

  • Ryan Radia

    Sorry for the double post, but one other comment–what if the hackers had simply connected to Yahoo via Tor? Presumably that would have made it next to impossible to figure out their true identity. Also, assuming the hackers didn't want to get caught, I'm surprised they used a proxy server that logs IP addresses.

  • Andrew Grossman

    @Ryan, whether the hackers guessed her password or forced their way in makes no difference. Analogously, it's still breaking and entering to push open an unlocked window and shimmy inside.

    As for Palin's use of the account, it depends entirely on Alaskan law. My guess, and it is only that, is that there may indeed be disclosure issues but the use is probably not wrongful per se. Surely a governor could use her home telephone line, for example, to receive business-related calls now and again.

    And third, yes, something like Tor could make it more difficult, though not necessarily impossible, to track down the offenders. That said, one criminal in a thousand is a genius; one doubts that a person engaged in a spur-of-the-moment non-economic crime like this would take the time (or even have the know-how) to cover his tracks effectively.

  • Anon

    It's called /b/, not /b. As they say, “lurk moar.”

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    Apparently the mystery hacker is a kid named David Kernell, a student at U. TN Knoxville whose dad is a TN state rep from Memphis and a Democrat.

    See http://tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID

    Consequently, the hand of Al Gore is evident behind this break-in.

  • http://scriboergosum.org.uk James Grieves

    “That said, one criminal in a thousand is a genius; one doubts that a person engaged in a spur-of-the-moment non-economic crime like this would take the time (or even have the know-how) to cover his tracks effectively.”

    The /b/tards are generally quite knowledgeable about such matters, mainly because they tend to be up to at least something illegal/illicit online. Be it trolling or more sinister stuff.

    As such they're almost all aware of proxies and TOR. Indeed one of their numerous memes is “I'm behind seven proxies” and “Always use a proxycondom”. If they are up to cracking an email account I would have imagined that they would know how to use TOR or proxies, although in this instance it seems that they fouled up quite heavily.

    But then, /b/ does have a far lower grade of hacker than some that can be found on other *chans, such as 711Chan or 420Chan. Those types occasionally use spoofed phone calls to set SWAT teams on their rivals. Comparatively 4Chan is fairly tame.

  • http://personalmoneystore.com Payday Loan Advocate

    After turning himself in to authorities, 20 year old David Kernell, son of Democratic Representative of Tennessee, Mike Kernell, is facing five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. He will be charged for hacking into GOP VP candidate Sarah Palin’s personal E-mail account. It is alleged that after reading the contents, he took a screen shot and posted it on a public Web site. The contents included email addresses, pictures, birthdays, and phone numbers of family members and more. To top it off, after resetting the password, he also posted the new one he had created, which allowed others to access the E-mail account themselves. Nonetheless, Kernell pleaded not guilty to the charges. Facing a $250,000 fine is intense. At $1,500 per loan, it would take about 167 individual payday loans to cover that outrageous expense.
    Post Courtesy of Personal Money Store
    Professional Blogging Team
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  • http://personalmoneystore.com/ Payday Loan Advocate

    After turning himself in to authorities, 20 year old David Kernell, son of Democratic Representative of Tennessee, Mike Kernell, is facing five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. He will be charged for hacking into GOP VP candidate Sarah Palin’s personal E-mail account. It is alleged that after reading the contents, he took a screen shot and posted it on a public Web site. The contents included email addresses, pictures, birthdays, and phone numbers of family members and more. To top it off, after resetting the password, he also posted the new one he had created, which allowed others to access the E-mail account themselves. Nonetheless, Kernell pleaded not guilty to the charges. Facing a $250,000 fine is intense. At $1,500 per loan, it would take about 167 individual payday loans to cover that outrageous expense.
    Post Courtesy of Personal Money Store
    Professional Blogging Team
    Feed Back: 1-866-641-3406
    Home: http://personalmoneystore.com/NoFaxPaydayLoans….
    Blog: http://personalmoneystore.com/moneyblog/

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