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Lawyers claim Palin hack suspect's PC had spyware

Groundwork laid for possible Big Wooden Horse defence

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Lawyers for Sarah Palin webmail hack suspect David Kernell claim his PC was infected with spyware.

The contention may be used at trial to support arguments that the 21-year-old student son of a Tennessee Democrat politician was not personally responsible for the hack on a Yahoo! account maintained by the former Alaskan governor, which was traced back to an IP address used by Kernell.

The content of emails and family photos were uploaded onto 4Chan during last year's presidential election campaign. The webmail account was compromised after hackers reset Palin's password using biographical info that was far from hard to figure out from publicly available information.

Palin described the incident as hugely disruptive to the Republican presidential campaign in her recently published book.

Lawyers acting for Kernell claim his Acer laptop was infected with unspecified malware in a motion filed on 30 November. However, the malware involved has been isolated and subjected to scrutiny, Security Blanket reports.

The so-called Trojan defence was successfully used by accused hacker Aaron Caffrey, an Asperger's sufferer charged with using systems run by the Port of Houston to run a DDoS attack, crashing servers in Texas in the process. Caffery was cleared after a jury found him not guilty of hacking offences at the end of a week-long trial back in 2003, despite the fact that expert witnesses found no evidence of Trojan infection on his PC.

In other cases, suspected paedophiles have been cleared by computer forensics after Trojans capable of downloading illicit images were found on their PCs.

It's unclear to what extent Kernell's lawyers will use the "hackers used my PC as a proxy" patsy defence when his trial, scheduled to begin on 20 April next year, gets underway. ®

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