Feeds

Prosecutors admit error in whistleblower conviction

A bit late, perhaps?

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

SANS - Survey on application security programs

Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles will ask a court to set aside the conviction of a man who served 16 months in federal prison for blowing the whistle on an ex-employer's cybersecurity holes, officials said Tuesday.

Without providing details, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles confirmed that the office's appellate division will move this week to vacate Bret McDanel's felony conviction.

McDanel, 30, was convicted last year under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for sending 5,600 e-mail messages to customers of his former employer, the now-defunct e-mail provider Tornado Development, Inc., warning about a security hole in Tornado's service that left private messages vulnerable to unauthorized access.

After a court trial, federal judge Lourdes Baird found McDanel guilty of unauthorized access, accepting prosecutors' arguments that McDanel abused Tornado's e-mail servers to send the messages. The judge found that McDanel caused the statutorily-required $5,000 in damage in part by bogging down those servers, and in part by harming the company's reputation by disclosing the bug.

McDanel appealed last August, arguing that the judge misconstrued the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

A federal prosecutor said Tuesday that the government was conceding that point, and would file a rare "Confession of Error" acknowledging that McDanel was convicted through an incorrect reading of the law. "The Confession of Error says we don't believe that simply disclosing the fact of the vulnerability itself constitutes damage," said the official.

McDanel's appellate attorney, Jennifer Granick at Stanford University's Center for Internet and Society, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

A government press release issued at the time of McDanel's sentencing colored him a "computer spammer," and touted the case as the first to go to trial in Los Angeles under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. McDanel has already served his full 16-month prison term.

Copyright © 2003,

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
Parent gabfest Mumsnet hit by SSL bug: My heart bleeds, grins hacker
Natter-board tells middle-class Britain to purée its passwords
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Web data BLEEDOUT: Users to feel the pain as Heartbleed bug revealed
Vendors and ISPs have work to do updating firmware - if it's possible to fix this
Snowden-inspired crypto-email service Lavaboom launches
German service pays tribute to Lavabit
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.