weev in 2010
Andrew Alаn Escher Auernheimer
September 1, 1985
|Known for||Internet trolling, hacktivism, neo-Nazism, alt-right activism|
Andrew Alan Escher Auernheimer (// OR-ən-hy-mər; born September 1, 1985), best known by his pseudonym weev, is an American computer hacker and self-avowed Internet troll who is affiliated with the alt-right. He has identified himself using a variety of aliases to the media, although most sources correctly provide his first name as Andrew.
As a member of the hacker group Goatse Security, Auernheimer exposed a flaw in AT&T security that compromised the e-mail addresses of iPad users. In revealing the flaw to the media, the group also exposed personal data from over 100,000 people, which led to a criminal investigation and indictment for identity fraud and conspiracy. Auernheimer was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison, of which he served approximately 13 months before the conviction was vacated by a higher court.
In 2016, Auernheimer was responsible for sending thousands of white-supremacist flyers to unsecured web-connected printers at multiple universities and other locations in the U.S. Since his release from prison, he has lived in a variety of locations in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. In 2017, it was reported that he was acting as webmaster for the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer. The Southern Poverty Law Center describes him as "a neo-Nazi white supremacist" known for "extremely violent rhetoric advocating genocide of non-whites".
Early hacking and trolling
Auernheimer claimed responsibility for the reclassification of many books on gay issues as pornography on Amazon's services in April 2009. Amazon said that he was not responsible for the incident. Even before the Amazon incident, several media publications profiled him regarding his hacking and trolling activities, including 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 him out 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.
In a 2008 interview, Auernheimer claimed responsibility for harassing the author and game developer Kathy Sierra in response to her "touchy" reaction to receiving threatening comments on her blog. This included posting a false account of her career online, including charges that she was a former sex worker, along with her home address and Social Security number. The post instigated further harassment and abuse of Sierra, which led her to withdraw from online activity for several years. Author Bailey Poland calls the "highly gendered nature" of his attacks on women a form of "cybersexism".
He is a member 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. He was also formerly GNAA's president.
AT&T data breach
Auernheimer is a member of the hacker group known as "Goatse Security" that exposed a flaw in AT&T security, which allowed the e-mail addresses of iPad users to be revealed. The flaw was part of a publicly-accesible URL, which allowed the group to collect the e-mails without having to break into AT&T's system. 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 group's actions rekindled public 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 methods used by Goatse Security.
Shortly after the investigation was opened, The FBI and local police raided Auernheimer's home in Arkansas. The FBI search was related to its investigation of the AT&T security breach, but Auernheimer was instead 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 because of 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 July 2011. In September 2011, he was freed 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.
On November 29, 2012, Auernheimer wrote 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.
Auernheimer was found guilty of identity fraud and conspiracy to access a computer without authorization. Before his sentencing hearing, Auernheimer told reporters, "I'm going to jail for doing arithmetic". He 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; his 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 the next day in court 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, his legal team filed a brief with the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that his 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 New Jersey venue was improper, since neither Auernheimer, his co-conspirators, nor AT&T's servers were in New Jersey at the time of the data breach. 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 on April 11, 2014.
Auernheimer lived for a time in Lebanon, Serbia, and Ukraine. In 2016, he told an interviewer that he was living in Kharkiv. The Southern Poverty Law Center reported Auernheimer to have left Ukraine in 2017 for Tiraspol, the capital of a self-proclaimed republic in Eastern Europe.
In October 2015, Auernheimer published the names of U.S. government employees who were exposed by the Adult FriendFinder and Ashley Madison data breaches. He told CNN, "I went straight for government employees because they seem the easiest to shame."
He has also been involved in the release of the undercover Planned Parenthood videos, which were under a temporary restraining order. The Washington Post quoted him as saying he did it "For the lulz."
In a pair of incidents in 2016, Auernheimer sent flyers adorned with racist and anti-Semitic messages to thousands of unsecured printers across the U.S.; flyers bearing swastikas and promoting The Daily Stormer were sent to several universities. He also claimed responsibility for 50,000 flyers sent to printers across the U.S., urging the killing of black and Jewish children and praising Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in a pair of terrorist attacks in Norway in 2011. He claimed to have used a tool to scour the Internet for unsecured printers, finding over a million vulnerable devices. An analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center has described Auernheimer and The Daily Stormer's Andrew Anglin as "primary innovators" in the use of online trolling by right-wing extremists.
An email leak by BuzzFeed News in October 2017 revealed that Auernheimer was in contact with Milo Yiannopoulos, who had asked Auernheimer for advice on an article about the alt-right. Yiannopoulos had asked his editor at Breitbart for permission for Auernheimer to appear on his podcast, which was rejected since the editor did not want Breitbart to associate with a "legit racist".
In 2017, Auernheimer was reported to be working as the webmaster for The Daily Stormer. Despite his neo-Nazi affiliations, Auernheimer's mother has stated that he has Jewish relatives on both sides of his family.
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Andrew Auernheimer aka Weev is a white supremacist and anti-Semite, as well as a notorious American hacker and online troll [...] Auernheimer writes for the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website, and was responsible for the anti-Semitic flier sent to thousands of networked printers at campuses across the country in 2016, which was a harbinger of the alt right's efforts to recruit at college campuses.
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- U.S. v. Auernheimer from the Electronic Frontier Foundation
- U.S. v. Auernheimer from the Digital Media Law Project
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