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New Charges Brought Against Sarah Palin's Hacker

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 29 comments

During the presidential race in 2008, someone hacked into Sarah Palin’s personal email account and posted the contents online for the world to see. Whether or not it was “real hacking” is heavily debated (he used the forgotten password link and found the answer to her secret question on Wikipedia) but the FBI still had a huge problem with it. The Tennessee student was yesterday charged with a couple of new offenses: fraud and obstruction-of-justice.

ComputerWorld today reports that David Kernell, son of Mike Kernell, a Democratic state representative from Memphis, was arraigned five months after a federal grand jury first handed down charges against him. According to CW, he had been facing just one count of illegally accessing a protected computer, but prosecutors are now accusing him of three counts of computer fraud. Yikes.

Kernell pleaded not guilty to the charges; and when contacted by ComputerWorld last year, Gabriel Ramuglia (who runs Ctunnel the proxy site that the screenshots showed the attacker used) said he had identified the IP address and approximate location of whomever was responsible for the hack. He also said that it was not consistent with media reports. Interesting, no? Kernell’s trial is set for October 27. Plenty of time for the kid to sweat it out over summer.

Check out the full scoop on ComputerWorld.

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Top Comments
  • 11 Hide
    ispyamoose , March 10, 2009 5:20 PM
    And this is why you do not use free email services for anything business related.
Other Comments
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , March 10, 2009 5:01 PM
    Throw the book at him. I don't care who you voted for - you should be outraged when someone tries to disrupt the political process by sabotaging candidates.
  • 5 Hide
    techtre2003 , March 10, 2009 5:11 PM
    If he were smart about the whole thing, he should have kept quiet about it and sold the information to one of Obama's goons. He is after all a Chicago politician right? (I can say that I'm from Illinois) :) 
  • 8 Hide
    SAL-e , March 10, 2009 5:14 PM
    argyle1Throw the book at him. I don't care who you voted for - you should be outraged when someone tries to disrupt the political process by sabotaging candidates.


    How about if someone disrupt your life? Thousands of people get hacked their credit destroyed and the police say that they can not do anything about it. But If you are big cheese from Washington and have ‘free’ prosecutor on staff, the whole system jumps.
    This case is the biggest BS ever.
  • -4 Hide
    thedipper , March 10, 2009 5:15 PM
    YOU should be outraged when someone sabotages the political process with laughable candidates.
  • 11 Hide
    ispyamoose , March 10, 2009 5:20 PM
    And this is why you do not use free email services for anything business related.
  • 5 Hide
    grieve , March 10, 2009 6:32 PM
    SAL-eHow about if someone disrupt your life? Thousands of people get hacked their credit destroyed and the police say that they can not do anything about it. But If you are big cheese from Washington and have ‘free’ prosecutor on staff, the whole system jumps. This case is the biggest BS ever.

    Politic hijacking aside for the moment…

    I think you have a valid point, I often complain about this type of thing. To get any justice you need to be in the public eye…

    Everyday people get hacked, identities stolen, murdered, raped…far worse then what happened to Palin, but we only hear about these incidents in the form of statistics.
  • 2 Hide
    NuclearShadow , March 10, 2009 6:50 PM
    I don't believe this could be considered a form of hacking as the kid just researched to answer the secret question. However I recall a ruling that gave the same privacy laws when it came to emails in the same manner to physical mail. so him even opening the mail would be a crime and each email he opened would be a additional charge.
  • 0 Hide
    curnel_D , March 10, 2009 7:42 PM
    NuclearShadowI don't believe this could be considered a form of hacking as the kid just researched to answer the secret question. However I recall a ruling that gave the same privacy laws when it came to emails in the same manner to physical mail. so him even opening the mail would be a crime and each email he opened would be a additional charge.

    Yes, but I dont see them being able to legitamently prove that he opened more than what ever email he posted information from. Do they have proof that he opened 3 emails?
  • 7 Hide
    jerreece , March 10, 2009 7:49 PM
    SAL-eHow about if someone disrupt your life? Thousands of people get hacked their credit destroyed and the police say that they can not do anything about it. But If you are big cheese from Washington and have ‘free’ prosecutor on staff, the whole system jumps. This case is the biggest BS ever.


    Having been in Law Enforcement before, I can tell you local police departments don't generally have the equipment, expertise, or resources to investigate and prosecute this type of crime.

    Internet related crimes, credit fraud, theft of identity, and related crimes are a HUGE burden on local police agencies. The truth is, most of the point in reporting such crimes is to get the official documentation you need in order for the credit agencies or the insurance agencies to take care of the problem for you.

    Law Enforcement have their hands full with this stuff, and don't have the needed resources to take care of it. At the federal level, they do have the abilities to do it, but not enough personnel to investigate the MILLIONS of crimes reported along these lines.

    That's where the fundamental change has to be made. Better training, equipping, and resourcing to local law enforcement agencies.
  • 0 Hide
    NuclearShadow , March 10, 2009 9:53 PM
    curnel_dYes, but I dont see them being able to legitamently prove that he opened more than what ever email he posted information from. Do they have proof that he opened 3 emails?


    I don't know if they will be able to do such unless there is evidence on his harddrive. If anyone knows of any other method that can be used to find out what emails he accessed I would love to hear it. Though I think its safe to assume that he more than likely read most if not all the emails Palin got. But thankfully we don't let assumptions determine charges and verdicts in court.
  • 0 Hide
    hellscook , March 11, 2009 1:57 AM
    I'm more outraged that Palin was conducting OFFICIAL business on a yahoo e-mail account. That is ILLEGAL as well!
  • 2 Hide
    techtre2003 , March 11, 2009 3:28 AM
    hellscookI'm more outraged that Palin was conducting OFFICIAL business on a yahoo e-mail account. That is ILLEGAL as well!

    The emails that I saw wasn't her conducting official business. One of them was her speaking with another politician; but it was a private (or so she thought) conversation. Politicians are allowed to have private conversations with other politicians.
  • 0 Hide
    hellscook , March 11, 2009 3:53 AM
    Even discussing an upcoming appointment is considered official business and is required by law to be in the public record. After she was found out, the account was deleted - gone from record.

    http://www.tgdaily.com/content/view/39376/118/
  • 2 Hide
    tayb , March 11, 2009 4:40 AM
    Sarah Palin backs FISA and the Patriot Act. I guess it is cool for my emails to be read and scanned and my privacy to be violated in the name of national security but oh no not hers.

    Dissent if you ask me. She, and everyone who backs the above legislation, deserves the same. Won't get any sympathy from me.
  • 1 Hide
    tayb , March 11, 2009 4:42 AM
    Oh and this isn't exactly "hacking." Palin is so unintelligent that she used widely available information as her Answers to the password recovery questions from Yahoo. Anyone with access to a computer and google.com could have broken into her account by simply searching for the questions the password recovery prompt asked you to.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , March 11, 2009 6:50 AM
    Technically, it is hacking, and hijacking. In a sense, the kid did a dictionary attack, with a highly specific dictionary. He gained access to an account that he was not authorized access to, which is hacking. Then, he changed the password, which wouldn't be very hard to pin that to hijacking. So, that is how you get the Fraud, when he pretended to be Sarah. Obstruction of Justice is fairly general, and I am not sure how they are using it in this case. I think the kid fully deserves it. They have to make a statement out of the kid. Showing that they do not stand up to that. More people heard about this, than your average computer fraud or identity theft case.
  • 0 Hide
    Tindytim , March 11, 2009 10:46 AM
    stevesterxSo, that is how you get the Fraud, when he pretended to be Sarah.

    So if I sit down at a computer and someone forgets to log out of their account, am I committing fraud?

    He didn't send any e-mails from that account (although that would have been hilarious).

    stevesterxI think the kid fully deserves it. They have to make a statement out of the kid. Showing that they do not stand up to that. More people heard about this, than your average computer fraud or identity theft case.

    I think we shouldn't give Palin any special treatment. Sending this kid away isn't going to stop anyone from doing this again. What we need to do is make an example of Sarah Palin, we can't stop hackers with threats of jail time if they're caught, she stupidly made an account unsecure.
  • 2 Hide
    jabliese , March 11, 2009 1:03 PM
    To all the "it's not a hack" people, if you find a car with the doors unlocked, and the keys in it, does that mean it's not stealing to drive it away?

    Do not take things that are not yours, knuckleheads. That includes e-mail.
  • 0 Hide
    jabliese , March 11, 2009 1:15 PM
    Also, regarding "He also said that it was not consistent with media reports." This was his initial reaction, shortly after, he learned the ISP concerned serviced both Illinois and Tennessee.

    http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9115289

    So, to answer your question, no, not interesting.
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