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Prosecutors claim that Spitler wrote a script called Account Slurper that attempted to siphon customer data by randomly plugging ICC-IDs into URLs on the AT&T website. When the script used an ID contained in the database, it would automatically open a page containing the customer’s name, email address, and other details. The charges for the equivalent of electronic trespass come even as security experts have roundly criticized AT&T for failing to property lock down the sensitive information.

“The issue it raises is the difference between I can and I may,” said March Rasch, a former federal prosecutor who is now director of cyber security and privacy at CSC, a technology consulting firm in Falls Church, Virginia. “Very frequently, people believe that if they are physically capable of obtaining information off of a webserver that it is the fault of the developer for creating a vulnerability and therefore they are perfectly allowed to exploit that vulnerability and then do anything they want with the information they've obtained. They view it as an unlocked door or even a door that is open.”

That is frequently not the case if the servers store sensitive information that the developers have taken steps to secure, he said.

What's more, the chat transcripts, which included 150 pages provided by a confidential informant, show Auernheimer and Spitler discussing the legal risks of the hack as well as the possibility of destroying the evidence to cover their tracks.

“I would like get rid of your shit like are we gonna do anything else with this data?” Auernheimer wrote in a message on June 10, some 24 hours after the breach became public knowledge.

“No should i toss it?” Spitler responded. The conversation continued:

Auernheimer: I don't think so either might be best to toss.

Spitler: yeah, I don't really give a fuck about it the troll is done

Auernheimer: yes we emerged victorious

Spitler: script is going byebye too.

The discussion could come back to harm the cases of the two men, Rasch told The Register.

“The problem that we have is we have this society of tinkerers that we call hackers and some of them are evil and some of them are what we call greyhat hackers,” he explained. “The greyhat hackers go around and jiggle the doors and jiggle the locks to find out how the locks work. So a lot of it has to do with what you do afterwards.” ®

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