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Crime HP The Almighty Buck The Courts Your Rights Online

Rich Pretexter, Poor Pretexter 121

theodp writes "David Kernell used pretexting to gain access to Sarah Palin's e-mail. And now Kernell faces the possibility of a 20-year prison sentence. HP used pretexting to gain access to its Board's phone records. And now HP faces the possibility of supplying phones to the very companies that were victimized in the HP pretexting scandal. So perhaps Kernell should try coughing up $14.5 million to see if that'll make his pretexting problems disappear. Seems to have worked for HP!"
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Rich Pretexter, Poor Pretexter

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  • ...f (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hannson ( 1369413 ) <> on Monday May 03, 2010 @08:26AM (#32071024)
    What I find most interesting about this case is that the initial sentence is up to 1 year for the unauthorized access itself and 20 years for the "obstruction of justice". I just can't see how that punishment fits the crime.
  • by GPLDAN ( 732269 ) on Monday May 03, 2010 @08:49AM (#32071160)
    If Verizon can find the identities of the investigators who did it, they will prosecute them. They have a few IP addresses, but it hasn't resulted in any names.

    Corporate espionage types do a better job of covering their tracks than David Kernell. He was sloppy, now he's going to federal pound-you-in-the-ass prison.
  • Re:...f (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 03, 2010 @09:27AM (#32071460)

    Doesn't every criminal perform some sort of action to cover up their dirty deed? A bank robber might wear a mask. A burgular might wear gloves. A hitman might pick up a bullet casing.

    Seems to me we shouldn't have a law like 'obstruction of justice' which can be applied to virtually any crime and carries a far stiffer sentance than would otherwise be constitutional. (In fact, how is 20 years for deleting a computer file on your own computer not cruel and unuusual punishment?)

  • Re:Corporatocracy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by michaelmalak ( 91262 ) <> on Monday May 03, 2010 @09:34AM (#32071536) Homepage

    Protip: If you are going to link Wikipedia to bolster a point, choose an article where virtually every sentence doesn't end with "citation needed".

    Given the well-documented [] editing of Wikipedia by corporations, it does bolster my point.

  • by br00tus ( 528477 ) on Monday May 03, 2010 @09:35AM (#32071552)
    On November 2, 1988, Robert Tappan Morris Junior released his worm, on an Internet that at that time had very little security. It took down a significant chunk of the net, crashing thousands of machines. Morris's father was a bigwig in the national security establishment, Morris was an upper middle class WASP who went to Harvard. Despite all this damage, he did no jail time.

    On January 24, 1990, in New York City, three MoD hackers were arrested. I had met all three before they were arrested. In terms of damage, only one machine they had ever been on had crashed, and all three denied crashing that one machine. There was no proof they had crashed it, and dozens of hackers had been on that Learning Link machine. Even if one had crashed it, which I don't believe, how can you accuse three people of the same crime? All three lived in poor or working class neighborhoods in New York, went to public schools etc. The judge said he would make an example of them and sent all three to jail.

    I was 16 years old when they were arrested, and this was my first real experience seeing the "justice system" - an upper middle class WASP whose father was high in the military establishment admits he crashed thousands of machines and is called a misunderstood genius who made a mistake, and walks on charges. A year later three guys younger than him are arrested for crashing a computer which they all plausibly deny crashing (and how does it take three people to crash one computer anyhow), a computer which had dozens of other hackers on it. They come from working class neighborhoods in Queens, with modems connected to Commodore 64's, not Unix workstations at Ivy League schools like Cornell. They go to jail, Morris walks. An early lesson for me on how America really works.

  • Re:Corporatocracy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jeffasselin ( 566598 ) <> on Monday May 03, 2010 @09:45AM (#32071648) Journal

    I prefer the term "corporate oligarchy". Means mostly the same thing, but those words actually exist.

  • by iPhr0stByt3 ( 1278060 ) on Monday May 03, 2010 @09:50AM (#32071712)
    We could also remove words such as running, sneaking, walking, jogging and sprinting and just say "going".
    Pretexting is a specific type of lie that means setting up the false pretext to be someone else - typically by using valid and/or confidential information about that person or by using the pretext over a prolonged period of time to make the ruse seem more convincing.

    I appreciate having this extra bit of information instead of just saying "he lied".
  • Better yet, lets co-opt pretexting: How about "Today two men pretexted themselves into my grandma's house by claiming to be from the gas company, then stole all her valuables." What's the difference here?

  • If I recall, it was assumed that merely having a personal email account was a means to skirt public disclosure requirements, but after multiple ethics investigations, they didn't find anything.

    So was there proof she was doing "sekrit" business in her personal email account or not?

  • by colfer ( 619105 ) on Monday May 03, 2010 @10:24AM (#32072138)

    ..for what were originally serious felonies of trying to bug a U.S. senator's office in broad daylight in New Orleans. Helped that the co-conspirator was the son of a U.S. Attorney in Louisiana, one suspects. The leader is the same creep who pretended to be a 1970s pimp in order to smear ACORN with a faked the video. Now he's getting off with a slap on the wrist for stuff the Watergate burglars went to prison for.
    (They went into the Landrieu's office, in a federal building, and pretended to be a telephone repair crew. The receptionist became suspicious when they asked her where the equipment closet was.) []

  • by GungaDan ( 195739 ) on Monday May 03, 2010 @10:54AM (#32072584) Homepage

    while this kid will likely serve time. Yes, it's *that* O'Keefe of fake pimp ACORN "sting" infamy. []

    O'Keefe et al entered a US Senator's office disguised as telephone repair men to tamper with the phone system. One accomplice is the son of a US attorney in Louisiana. All 4 were arrested by the FBI. All 4 skated.

    "Justice" in these cases seems to depend quite heavily on whose political party your father belongs to.

  • by chudnall ( 514856 ) on Monday May 03, 2010 @11:33AM (#32073032) Homepage Journal

    There weren't really any good anti-hacking laws on the books in 1988. The Internet wasn't really on the public radar, and Morris did a lot to change that. I remember this time well because I was 20 years old in 1988 and was doing a lot of the same things Morris was. For anyone who could read a Unix man page, Internet security back then was a complete joke. Every system from pretty much every vendor was trivially hackable from the second the coax was attached. The thing that Morris did that the rest of us didn't was hack together some shell scripts to automate the process.

    Anyway, when the worm hit, there were a lot of questions over what he could be charged with. I think the whole "unauthorized access of a computing device" was drafted in response to that. At that time, My cohorts and I were on fairly good "friendly enemy" terms with the college sysadmins, and would dutifully notify them (i.e. brag) whenever we found a new exploit. However, starting right about the time the Morris worm hit, attitudes about our activity started changing rapidly. Laws were drafted, at the Federal and state level. There were mutters from higher up about "teaching those kids a lesson". The sysadmins didn't smile and wave anymore when we passed each other. Computers were starting to become important to "regular people".

    Personally, I wised up, and found more creative uses for my talents. I also got my own sysadmin job, which changed my outlook regarding hacking greatly :). But I would have fully expected, two years after the worm, to have faced far harsher treatment that Morris had, and it wouldn't have occurred to me to blame class-ism. It was a time of great change, in technology, attitudes, and criminal statutes.

  • by mellon ( 7048 ) on Monday May 03, 2010 @12:02PM (#32073400) Homepage

    When Morris released the worm, there were no laws on the books specifically forbidding that activity, so there wasn't much they could charge him with. The MoD hackers were a test case for the new law that Morris' case led congress to pass. So yeah, it sucks, but you can't pass a law making something a crime and then charge someone for the crime of having done that thing before the law was passed. While there certainly are examples of the phenomenon you're talking about in law (e.g., the difference in sentencing for crack vs. powder cocaine), this is not such an example.

Who goeth a-borrowing goeth a-sorrowing. -- Thomas Tusser