Accused AT&T-iPad hacker Andrew Auernheimer in plea talks

NEW YORK Wed Jul 27, 2011 10:43pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Andrew Auernheimer, accused of hacking into AT&T Inc servers and stealing the personal data of 120,000 Apple Inc iPad users, is in talks to plead guilty after his co-defendant did the same last month.

Auernheimer was indicted on July 6 by a Newark, New Jersey federal grand jury on one count of conspiracy to gain unauthorized access to computers and one count of identity theft. His co-defendant Daniel Spitler pleaded guilty on June 23 to the same charges.

In an order on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton put Auernheimer's case on hold, saying "plea negotiations are currently in progress and both the United States and the defendant desire additional time to finalize a plea agreement, which would render trial of this matter unnecessary."

Auernheimer is a resident of Fayetteville, Arkansas, and has been free on bail.

Candace Hom, a federal public defender who represents him, did not immediately return requests for comment. A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman declined to comment.

Prosecutors said Auernheimer and Spitler were both affiliated with Goatse Security, a group of "Internet trolls" that tries to disrupt online content and services.

The government said both men last June used an "account slurper" designed to match email addresses with so-called "integrated circuit card identifiers" for iPad users.

Once deployed, the slurper conducted a "brute force" attack to extract data about those users, who accessed the Internet through AT&T's network, the government said.

AT&T partners with Apple in the United States to provide wireless service on the iPad. After the hacking, it shut off the feature that allowed email addresses to be obtained.

Spitler could face a 12- to 18-month prison term at his sentencing, scheduled for September 28.

The case is U.S. v. Auernheimer, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey, No. 11-00470.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; editing by Andre Grenon)

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