Angel Activist Or Demon Hacker? The Madness Of Weev
AT&T “hacker” Weev hates Government, but told TechWeekEurope of his Mormonism – and his plans to run for Congress
Andrew Auernheimer, better known as Weev, was sentenced to 41 months in prison in the US today. He told TechWeekEurope that when he gets out he will run for Congress, whilst defending his trolling activities and telling us God is on his side.
It was a typically anarchic day for Weev. Having started with a slapdash press conference, during which he read a long Keats poem, he was later reportedly tackled by officers in a packed Newark court for not handing his phone to them as requested, choosing instead to pass it to his lawyer. Then he was sentenced, under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and told that after his jail time, he must serve three years’ probation. His supporters, of which he has thousands, were furious.
The case goes back to 2010, when Weev found that AT&T kept the email addresses of 114,000 in a public databse, and harvested the email addresses to expose AT&T’s poor security in leaving them accessible on the public-facing Internet. Along with co-defendant Danile Spitler, Weev accessed email addresses and unique identifiers of iPads, known as ICC-IDs, of those customers by sending simple Get requests to a public API.
Auernheimer had been working with a loose-knot “grey hat” body known as Goatse Security (slogan – “Gaping Holes Exposed”) whose aim was to reveal instances of poor security on the Internet. Auernheimer passed the AT&T details over to tech news site Gawker, which subsequently published the information in redacted form.
In November last year, Weev was found guilty on one count of identity fraud and one count of conspiracy to access a computer without authorisation. The decision prompted an outcry from certain sections of the security and civil rights’ communities, who claimed the conviction would have the effect of dissuading researchers from finding flaws and making the Internet a safer place.
The lesser of two Weevils?
But who is Weev? Whilst a proud hacker, he is also known as one of the more foul-mouthed trolls on the Internet. He once told another Twitter user they were fat and their child had autism, in response to a comment about Auernheimer’s appeal to women (or lack thereof).
The Goatse Security group certainly never took off, even though prosecutors provided evidence from chat logs that indicated Weev and his associate hoped the group would get some positive press from the situation.
Some have criticised Weev’s actions over AT&T, with US law enforcement officials and others advocating “responsible disclosure”. He should have told the telecoms giant first, rather than passing the information to Gawker, the argument goes.
Weev spoke to TechWeekEurope directly after November’s conviction and again last Friday, and came across as erratic on both occasions.
He flipped between enigmatic and upfront, but was consistent in his commitment to – and references to – God. Having been a Lutheran, he is now a Mormon.
“Faith helps you in every situation in life,” he told us, going on to quote the Bible. Luke 6:22 is one passage he thinks reflects his circumstances. It reads: “Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake.”
The other constant is his loathing of corporations and the government, whom he labels “seditious thugs”. Auernheimer sees himself as an activist, and was critical of how law enforcement handled the case of Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide after he was accused of stealing documents from an online archive of student materials. Weev claims he has been the target of FBI surveillance since he was 15 (he is now 27), believing that anyone who expresses honesty openly in the US could be a target. “Being an honest citizen in a nation of criminals will get you a lot of people on your back,” Weev said.
“It’s no different to Socrates… I’m being an antagonist because it is socially useful… I don’t think there’s much different to what I do from a lot of prophets.”
Why did he hit AT&T? “I was doing it to f**k with AT&T and make them look like s**t heads. Because corporations, not just corporations, but everyone in this country needs to be subject to fair criticism,” Auernheimer said in November.
On Friday, he said that any data journalist in the world should also be concerned by the case, given charges were made over access to an API that was easy to find and gain information from. There are thousands upon thousands of similar APIs being used every day for legitimate operations, he said.
Weev, who says he has been working as a generator maintenance guy, as well as “chilling and partying”, also defended his trolling side, which might on the face of it seem to conflict with his Christian duty to “love thy neighbour”. Here’s what he had to say about people who felt hurt: “Those people should get off the Internet if they get offended. If you don’t like what I say on the Internet… don’t subscribe to my YouTube, don’t listen. I only respond to comments made to me.”
Weev, the budding Congressman
It’s hard to tell if Auernheimer is serious about other things, however. He said once he gets out he is going to run for Congress once he is out. Just a matter of months ago he told us he was going to leave the country.
“I’m going to drop all future hacks on the floor of Congress,” he said. But he claimed he had already assembled a congressional committee to look at New Jersey as a launch pad for a political career.
What will he fight for? Hating the federal government is at the top of his list, followed by freedom of speech, Internet freedoms and patent reform. Weev also wants to ensure Americans can continue to access guns, in order to defend themselves from weapon-wielding police. “I am absolutely pro gun – this country was forged by people with high speed led… [We have to be able to defend ourselves] from the tyranny of the federal government.”
As for jail, he isn’t afraid of what might happen. He said on Friday it was “inevitable” he was going to go to prison, but he is convinced his appeals team has a good chance of getting him out soon. “I think I’ll win as I’m in the right and God is on my side.”
But, in the meantime, he’ll be spending some time inside. Is there anyone to look out for him? Family? “I don’t talk to them anymore. My real family is elsewhere… What did my family do for me when I was in trouble?
“I don’t feel they are an asset.”
Whatever happens, he doesn’t expect prison to change him much. “[When I come out], I’m going to ridicule the decadent and wicked institutions in Western civilisations until not one of them is left.
“Our rights are more important than my life. I’m willing to fight. If it’s a couple of years in a federal prison, then I’ll take that.”
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