Andrew Alan Escher Auernheimer (// AW-rən-hy-mər; born September 1, 1985), also known by his pseudonym weev, is an American grey hat hacker, white nationalist, and Internet troll. He has identified himself using a variety of aliases to the media, although most sources correctly provide his first name as Andrew.
Auernheimer claimed responsibility for the disruption to Amazon's services in April 2009, a reaction to the reclassification of many books on gay issues as pornography. Amazon said that Auernheimer was not responsible for the incident. Even before the Amazon incident, several media publications profiled Auernheimer regarding his hacking and trolling activities, notably The New York Times, in which he claimed to be a member of a hacker group called “the organization,” making $10 million annually. He also claimed to be the owner of a Rolls-Royce Phantom. After the Times story on Auernheimer was published, reporters sought out Auernheimer for commentary on hacking-related stories. Gawker published a story on the Sarah Palin email hacking incident and prominently featured Auernheimer's comments in the title of the story.
AT&T data breach
Auernheimer is a member of the group of computer experts known as "Goatse Security" that exposed a flaw in AT&T security which allowed the e-mail addresses of iPad users to be revealed. Contrary to what it first claimed, the group revealed the security flaw to Gawker Media before AT&T had been notified, and also exposed the data of 114,000 iPad users, including those of celebrities, the government and the military. The actions of this group re-provoked the debate on the disclosure of security flaws. Auernheimer maintains that Goatse Security used common industry standard practices and has said that "we tried to be the good guys". Jennifer Granick of the Electronic Frontier Foundation has also defended the tactics used by Goatse Security.
Shortly after the investigation was opened, Auernheimer's home in Arkansas was raided by the FBI and local police. The FBI search was related to its investigation of the AT&T security breach, but Auernheimer was subsequently detained on state drug charges. Police allege that, during their execution of the search warrant related to the AT&T breach, they found cocaine, ecstasy, LSD, and schedule 2 and 3 pharmaceuticals. He was released on a $3,160 bail pending state trial. After his release on bail, he broke a gag order to protest what he maintained were violations of his civil rights. In particular, he disputed the legality of the search of his house and denial of access to a public defender. He also asked for donations via PayPal, to defray legal costs.
In January 2011, all drug-related charges were dropped immediately following Auernheimer's arrest by federal authorities. The U.S. Justice Department announced that he would be charged with one count of conspiracy to access a computer without authorization and one count of fraud. Although his co-defendant, Daniel Spitler, was quickly released on bail, Auernheimer was initially denied bail due to his unemployment and lack of a family member to host him. He was incarcerated in the Federal Transfer Center, Oklahoma City before being released on $50,000 bail in late February 2011. A federal grand jury in Newark, New Jersey, indicted Auernheimer with one count of conspiracy to gain unauthorized access to computers and one count of identity theft in early July 2011. In September 2011 he was free on bail and raising money for his legal defense fund.
On November 20, 2012, Auernheimer was found guilty of one count of identity fraud and one count of conspiracy to access a computer without authorization. Auernheimer tweeted that he would appeal the ruling. Alex Pilosov, a friend who was also present for the ruling, tweeted that Auernheimer would remain free on bail until sentencing, "which will be at least 90 days out."
On November 29, 2012, Auernheimer authored an article in Wired entitled "Forget Disclosure – Hackers Should Keep Security Holes to Themselves," advocating the disclosure of any zero-day exploit only to individuals who will "use it in the interests of social justice."
[...]Aaron dealt with his indictment so badly because he thought he was part of a special class of people that this didn’t happen to. I am from a rundown shack in Arkansas. I spent many years thinking people from families like his got better treatment than me. Now I realize the truth: The beast is so monstrous it will devour us all.
On March 18, 2013, after being found guilty of identity fraud and conspiracy to access a computer without authorization, Auernheimer was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $73,000 in restitution. Just prior to his sentencing, he posted an "Ask Me Anything" thread on Reddit; comments such as "I hope they give me the maximum, so people will rise up and storm the docks" and "My regret is being nice enough to give AT&T a chance to patch before dropping the dataset to Gawker. I won't nearly be as nice next time" were cited by the prosecution as justification for the sentence.
Auernheimer was serving his sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution, Allenwood Low, a low-security federal prison in Pennsylvania, and was scheduled for release in January 2016. On July 1, 2013, Auernheimer's legal team filed a brief with the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that Auernheimer's convictions should be reversed because he had not violated the relevant provisions of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
On April 11, 2014, the Third Circuit issued an opinion vacating Auernheimer's conviction, on the basis that the venue in New Jersey was improper. While the judges did not address the substantive question on the legality of the site access, they were skeptical of the original conviction, noting that no circumvention of passwords had occurred and that only publicly accessible information was obtained. He was released from prison late on April 11.
Political views and critical reception
Auernheimer has published a number of podcasts and keeps a LiveJournal blog in which he offers commentary on racial and cultural issues. His views have proved controversial, causing Philip Elmer-DeWitt to dub him "the ugliest computer hacker". Rolling Stone calls his hacking results racist and homophobic while others have interpreted his work as deliberately offensive humor, with Fox News calling it "offensive and witty detail" and a Forbes author telling readers to "think: Shakespeare's Puck"; an Atlantic magazine author called this Puck reference "oddly generous".
Auernheimer is an advocate for free speech. He defended the satirical wiki Encyclopedia Dramatica in a Ninemsn interview which was cited as "rather brilliant" in an article about Australian Internet censorship published in The Register. His actions have sometimes been described as hacktivism - Australian media commentator Emma Jane has characterized him as a "celebrity hacktivist".
Auernheimer has shown support for the Occupy Wall Street protest movement, stating that he "had a strong decade of infuriating rich people." He has stated publicly that he is an admirer of Timothy McVeigh, Andrew Stack, and Marvin Heemeyer.
In October 2014, Auernheimer published an article in the neo-Nazi blog The Daily Stormer in which he revealed himself to be a white nationalist. He displayed photographs of his tattoos, one in the shape of a Swastika. He described his prison time as "thousands of hours yelling the Eddas at the top of my lungs and scrawling runes on the concrete walls". In 2012, Auernheimer had told Gawker that he had Jewish ancestry
Auernheimer is the former president of the Gay Nigger Association of America, an anti-blogging trolling group who take their name from the 1992 Danish movie Gayniggers from Outer Space. Members of Goatse Security involved with the iPad hack are also members of GNAA.
In 2008 The New York Times reported that Auernheimer claimed responsibility for posting a false account of programming author and game developer Kathy Sierra's career in 2007 including charges that she was a former sex worker, along with her actual address and Social Security number. This led to her receiving death threats and threats of sexual violence and to her online absence from 2007 to 2013. In 2014, Auernheimer denied that he was the author of the post and asserted that The New York Times author fabricated the statement that was attributed to him. Sierra has stated that, before this denial, Auernheimer repeatedly tweeted about the incident that she "had it coming" and deserved to be attacked.
Auernheimer has said that he is planning to open a hedge fund, TRO LLC.
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- Kathy Sierra | Full Disclosure | Full-Disclosure
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- Weev Talks About Life In Prison And His Plans To Open A Hedge Fund, TRO LLC TechCrunch, March 15, 2014.
- U.S. v. Auernheimer from the Electronic Frontier Foundation
- U.S. v. Auernheimer from the Digital Media Law Project