Washington: A computer hacker has been sentenced to three years and five months in prison for stealing the personal data of about 120,000 Apple iPad users, including big-city mayors, a TV network news anchor and a Hollywood movie mogul. Andrew Auernheimer, 27, had been convicted in November by a Newark, New Jersey, jury of one count of conspiracy to access AT&T Inc servers without permission, and one count of identity theft.
The sentence imposed by US district Judge Susan Wigenton in Newark was at the high end of the 33- to 41-month range that the US Department of Justice had sought.
Prosecutors had said prison time would help deter hackers from invading the privacy of innocent people on the Internet. Among those affected by Auernheimer's activities were ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein, prosecutors said. "When it became clear that he was in trouble, he concocted the fiction that he was trying to make the Internet more secure, and that all he did was walk in through an unlocked door," US attorney Paul Fishman said in a statement.
"The jury didn't buy it, and neither did the court in imposing sentence."
Auernheimer had sought probation. His lawyer had argued that no passwords were hacked, and that a long prison term was unjustified given that the government recently sought six months for a defendant in a case involving 'far more intrusive facts'.
The lawyer, Tor Ekeland, said his client would appeal. He said the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act doesn't clearly define what constitutes unauthorised access. Auernheimer was handcuffed at one point during the sentencing, the lawyer said.