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Weev is the pseudonym of Andrew Alan Escher Auernheimer, an American hacker and Internet troll known for his involvement on the website Encyclopedia Dramatica and in an AT&T data breach that exposed personally identifiable information of 114,000 iPad users.
On February 4th, 2003, “Weev” created an account on the social networking blog site Livejournal, where he gained the reputation of being a prominent troll within the site’s community. On August 1st, 2006, Auernheimer spoke at the ToorCon information security conference in San Diego, California (shown below), during which he claimed to be under the influence of the psychedelic drug lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). In the talk, he discussed various types of Internet crime, including hacking the Firefox browser and trading in online black markets.
On August 3rd, 2008, The New York Times published an article titled “The Trolls Among Us,” which featured interviews with several Internet trolls including Auernheimer as well as Jason Fortuny and Encyclopedia Dramatica creator Sherrod DeGrippo. In the article, Auernheimer is described as a dangerous hacker with access to thousands of social security numbers (SSN), having sent the author his own SSN one month after being interviewed. On February 1st, 2009, Auernheimer began uploading videos to the weevlos YouTube channel, where he would provide sermons on his unique brand of Christianity (shown below).
On April 13th, Gawker published an article titled “Why it Makes Sense That a Hacker’s Behind Amazon’s Big Gay Outrage,” which reported that Auernheimer had taken responsibility for exploiting a vulnerability in the ratings tool for the online retailer Amazon, causing gay-themed romance novels to disappear from the site’s best-seller lists. The article cited a Livejournal post in which Auernheimer described the methods used to execute the prank. On October 20th, Auernheimer submitted an “ask me anything” post to the social news website Reddit, in which he discussed the practice of trolling and his political views. On October 19th, 2012, Auernheimer appeared on The Huffington Post Live web show to discuss his thoughts on trolling in light of the Violentacrez Reddit scandal (shown below).
AT&T Data Breach
On June 9th, 2010, Gawker published an article titled “Apple’s Worst Security Breach: 114,000 iPad Owners Exposed,” which reported that the information of CEOs, military officials and politicians had been leaked due to a vulnerability in the AT&T network. The article went on to reveal that iPad subscriber data had been obtained by the hacker group Goatse Security on AT&T’s website, which was accessible to anyone on the Internet prior to the group’s exploit.
FBI Arrest and Trial
On June 11th, The Wall Street Journal published an article reporting that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had begun investigating the incident. On June 15th, the tech news site Cnet published an article reporting that Auernheimer had been detained following an FBI search of his apartment, in which several illegal drugs were discovered, including “cocaine, ecstasy, LSD and schedule 2 and 3 pharmaceuticals.” On July 7th, The Register published an article titled “AT&T iPad ‘Hacker’ Breaks Gag Order to Rant at Cops,” which quoted Auernheimer saying:
“My actions and those of Goatse were not criminal; they were done using industry standard practices as a public service. All the actions of the original author of this exploit were not criminal. Scraping data from a public web server is an extremely common practice amongst lawyers, security researchers and journalists, not to mention web developers.”
Sometime in 2011, the site Free Weev was launched, which urged viewers donate to Auernheimer’s legal defense fund. On November 20th, 2012, the tech news site Wired reported that Auernheimer had been found guilty of “conspiracy to access a computer without authorization” and “fraud in connection with personal information.” The same day, Auernheimer tweeted that he would be appealing the conviction.
Hey epals don’t worry! We went in knowing there would be a guilty here. I’m appealing of course.
— Andrew Auernheimer (@rabite) November 20, 2012
On November 21st, the technology culture blog Motherboard published an article titled “No More Lulz: Should Weev, the World’s Most Notorious Troll, Go to Jail for ‘Hacking’?” On November 27th, Gawker published an article titled “The Internet’s Best Terrible Person Goes to Jail: Can a Reviled Master Troll Become a Geek Hero?”, which described Auernheimer’s history and court appearances leading up to his conviction. Meanwhile, the Huffington Post announced its plan to release an exclusive interview with Auernheimer regarding his conviction on November 28th.
Support of OWS Movement
On October 20th, 2011, YouTuber optikaltekniq uploaded a video in which Auernheimer revealed his thoughts on the Occupy Wall Street movement and explained why he felt federal prosecutors were attempting to put him in jail (shown below). The same day, the video was highlighted on the Internet news site BoingBoing.
“I’ve had a strong decade of infuriating rich people.”
AMA on Reddit
On March 17th, 2013, Auernheimer participated in an ask me anything (AMA) post in the /r/IAmA subreddit, instantly sparking a debate among Redditors over whether or not he deserved to go to jail, with many attacking his character and involvement with the internet troll collective GNAA. Auernheimer revealed in a comment that his only regret was “giving AT&T a chance to patch before dropping the dataset to Gawker,” to which many warned him that he should refrain from saying such things publicly prior to his sentencing. He further went on to reveal that he planned on running for Congress as his next move in order to avoid prosecution for publishing hacks in the future.
On the following day, Auernheimer was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison, 3 years of probation and a restitution of $73,000 to AT&T, receiving a third of the possible maximum sentence for both charges. According to the tech news blog Tech Crunch, Auernheimer was momentarily apprehended and removed from the courtroom by ten officers after he attempted to use his phone, before returning to the trial in shackles. According to The Verge, federal prosecutors mentioned Auernheimer’s AMA post several times during the sentencing and brought attention to his involvement with the Internet culture wiki Encyclopedia Dramatica.
Prior to his sentencing, Auernheimer spoke to the press outside of the courthouse, where he criticized the federal government and exclaimed “I’m going to jail for arithmetic! Fuck this country!” (shown below). “Weev” stated that he planned to appeal his sentencing again. He will be assisted in doing so by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.On the 21st, an appeal was filed by Auernheimer’s legal team, the full text of which can be read here on online document sharing site Scribd.
Auernheimer is a controversial figure who has been often described as offensive and bigoted in the media. In several Livejournal posts, podcasts and YouTube videos, Auernheimer has expressed his opinions on a wide range of racial and cultural issues, which earned him the label of being an anti-semite by his critics. CNN writer Philip Elmer-DeWitt referred to him in an article as “the ugliest computer hacker,” similarly portraying Auernheimer as an anti-semite and a bigot who jokes about the deaths of celebrities and makes disparaging remarks towards Black Americans. Another article in The Australian described Auernheimer as a “celebrity hacktivist.”
Reddit – “I am running for Congress”: http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1ahkgc/i_am_weev_i_may_be_going_to_prison_under_the/c8xi07l
Reddit – ’My only regret":http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1ahkgc/i_am_weev_i_may_be_going_to_prison_under_the/c8xgqq9
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