Feeds

back to article Attorneys for Palin email hacker: 'Don't call him hacker'

Attorneys for the University of Tennessee student accused of breaking into Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's email account have filed a small forest's worth of court documents in defense of the high-profile suspect. Among them is a motion to prohibit prosecutors from referring to their client as a hacker. The terms "hacker" and " …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

Anonymous Coward

Heh?

define:hacker hacker is a term used to denote exceptional technical prowess that may be unorthodox or used to quickly fix a problem.

define:cracker cracker is a person who cracks into computer systems generally without authority

So he is not a hacker is he, he is just a cracker, and should be called that.

0
0
Silver badge
Linux

Too right!

Hackers are people who solve computer problems for recreational reasons.

This guy is, at best, a cracker, and unless he can demonstrate the above should never be referred to as a hacker.

0
0
Bronze badge

Dichotomy City???

<<intentionally accessing a protected computer without authorization>>

Er, how do I access a 'protected computer'...

If I can, surely that means it ain't protected. Or did I miss something, like the machine was fitted with a big Rubber Johnny.

Seems like this "law" was passed by people as thick as pigshit, i.e. 'Merkans

0
0

Hrm..

A "cracker" is one who "cracks" the security mechanism(s) embedded into software, thus allowing it to be run/installed without satisfying said security mechanism(s). i.e. A "cracker" makes it possible to install a pirated copy of something ("warez"), bypassing any previously required purchase or registration proofs.

A "hacker" is one who "hacks" into computer systems. What this guy did was, in fact, "hacking" even though what he did was really just to get lucky with his guesses. There is nothing in the definition of "hacker" that requires any particular level of skill. However to describe him as a "hacker" gives a bad name to real "hackers" who have built up certain skillsets that allow them to "hack" into others' systems by means other than making a few lucky guesses.

In this case, the defense is simply trying to avoid repeatedly reminding jurors that the guy "hacked" Palin's Yahoo account, as any decent defense would try to do.

0
0
Coat

define

define: hacker hacker is a term used to define a taxicab driver; alternately, a bad writer.

define: cracker cracker is a thin, crisp wafer, usually served as an accompaniment to spreads or other comestibles; alternately, a light-complexioned person from the American South.

0
0
Joke

@Cracker

Racist!

(j/k)

0
0
Alert

cracker, not hacker

A hacker is a person who is enthusiastic about and expert with technology. The person who broke into Governor Palin's email account was a mere cracker, not a hacker. I have worked as a programmer/analyst for over 20 years, and am a proud member of two hacker organizations. I have never cracked into anyone's phone or computer system.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Just call the guy a dumb asswipe

Leave it to sleazy paid liars, aka lawyers, to redefine the term scumbag, oh wait, I mean hacker. Maybe this guy is too stupid to be a hacker after posting code so that people could track him down.

0
0
Silver badge
Happy

Time wasting and distraction.

Just more lawyer tricks to deflect from the real question - did he have the right to access her email account? No. So therefore he is guilty of unauthorised access to a computer system, a federal offence. If I was the prosecutor I would ignore this joke of a ploy and concentrate on the real issue - let him argue about definitions from a prison cell, after his daddy has wasted a wedge of cash on slimey lawyers.

0
1

Silly buggers.

He never hacked--just applied social engineering to it and got suprising results.

Do what Las Vegas casino owners do--hire the kid and let him sniff the gov't network for obvious holes.

0
0
Pirate

Woot!

The nutzo picture of Palin is back! Palin-tology lives! BTW I work for the State of Alaska. I've recently offered to forward her yahoo email to her State email account for a mere $3 million. Bargain even if I do say so myself. I figure if I contact this guy I could have her email transferred by the weekend.

Only one thing puzzles me. What excuse she has for using a yahoo email account when State of Alaska email accounts have been available via any browser for over 10 years.

0
0

Meanwhile, in HA...

"Hello, my name is Andrew and I'm a hacker..."

0
0
Pirate

Hacker / Cracker etc.

I wouldn't call him a hacker or a cracker, he's not even really a script kiddy (although that's closer). That said the term hacking can apply, since hacker doesn't simply mean using advanced technological skills or equipment to break into something, but also includes skills such as social engineering and research. There is a great skill in guessing someone's password beyond just typing in random words.

One thing I don't understand though, wasn't this her hotmail account? That being the case, how did he "break into a protected computer" the emails will have been stored on an MS hotmail sever, a sever to which Microsoft allow the public free access. So surely the indictment is incorrect and should be quashed for that reason.

0
0
Thumb Down

is it really unauthorised access at all?

What he did was answer questions that then provided him with access details. Surely this is authorised access? The system he accessed *gave* him that access.

Now, one can compare it to say exploiting a known security bug that would trick a system into giving access when it should otherwise not have been given...but this isn't really the case here. This isn't a security bug, he got asked several questions, provided the correct answer, and thus authenticated himself. How is that unauthorised?

Palin chose to use hotmail, just like she chooses to throw things in the trash - if someone routed through that trash and found a letter or two, that wouldn't be illegal. Just because she didn't understand the security implications of using a webmail provider, doesn't make it right.

OK - so the guy still did something wrong (in the eyes of the law), but it should be a civil matter, not federal. One wonders if this much fuss would have been made if the 'target' wasn't a VP nominee...somehow, I doubt it.

0
0
Tom
Silver badge
Thumb Down

Revenge for blowing her email abuse into the public.

"unauthorized access of a protected computer" is crap.

mail.yahoo.com is a public system, He used it as intended without using any hacks or secret features. No different then if he had been accessing his own email account. IF he had accessed a government owned email server (where all her mail should have been) it would be a different story.

"unauthorized access of Palin's email account"

This is all they should be able to get him for. And the fact that he used the access to publicly show that she was using the account to avoid the required public record of her official government emails (something of public interest) and not something like sending fake emails in her name should be taken into account.

0
0
Jim

Whistleblower protection?

Wasn't evidence found of wrong doing my a senior member of government?

Doesn't that provide some level of mitigation for the crime, in the public interest and all that?

Hacker vs Cracker? I think people should give up the ghost on that one, the original meaning is no more observed than is the original meaning of gay.

0
0
Thumb Down

By Definition(s), He's a Hacker

This fellow sounds like a combination of #2 and #3b. Not a particularly brilliant one, but motivated enough to at least do the obvious.

From dictionary.com (http://dictionary2.classic.reference.com/cite.html?qh=hacker&ia=luna)

hack⋅er /ˈhækər/

–noun

1. a person or thing that hacks.

2. Slang. a person who engages in an activity without talent or skill: weekend hackers on the golf course.

3. Computer Slang.

a. a computer enthusiast.

b. a microcomputer user who attempts to gain unauthorized access to proprietary computer systems.

0
0
Coat

What is this obsession with the word hacker?

Words are tricky, they are just a bunch of sounds put together, and they have no natural/god/God given meaning. Some sound alike, some doesn't. Some change and mean the same, some doesn't change, but change meaning. Their meaning is given by what we think they mean. That presents a problem of course, because you and me are not alike. Sometimes we don't even think alike, this might be shocking for you to hear, but just change what you think the words I just wrote meant, and you will be all right. You may also ask an adult for advice, or you may give them some. Back to the words we use. When you say a word and think it means something, and I think it means something else, I will hear something else than you say. So how does this work out, we could as well skip the talking all together then. Well, a long time ago somebody managed to agree on what some words meant. I don't know who those people were, but it isn't important. Lets say they were children so you can say that in a conversation at a party sometime. Say it like you have thought about it a lot. It sounds very deep, even though it isn't, but you might get lucky because of it. If you don't understand what I mean by "getting lucky", don't ask an adult about it, ask your older brother instead. Anyway, these people managed to agree on a few solid good words and what they meant. One word perhaps was "banana". "Banana" one said and pointed at the fruit we mean by the word "banana", and everybody nodded because they knew it was so. Soon we agreed on a whole bunch of words, and we could communicate. As time passed some words turned out to be too long, too complicated or too “uncool” for the youngsters, so they changed them to shorter and better words. The elder people didn't agree on this, but since they die first they tend to loose. So some words were thus changed and shortened, and had added coolness. Sometimes old unused words changed meaning because the youngsters didn’t like that the elder people knew what they were talking about. When the elder people once again died the old meaning was forgotten. I will try to end this now, so I'll get to the point. Once in a while some people try to invent something, often a whole new field of things, and they invent words to go with them. They said “This is the ultra portable cellular cordless telephone!", and the public didn't nod because they knew it wasn't so, it was too long. So they said, it is a cell phone then? The clever inventors then said: "Yes, a cell phone is what it is, will you buy it?" The not so clever ones insisted that it wasn't a cell phone or a cell, and were never heard from again.

Some time ago somebody broke into computer. When I say break, they didn't actually crack it open or throw it to the ground or something like that. They accessed it without the owner’s permission, and managed to get pass the security measures that the owner had placed to prevent that access. Somebody else referred to this person as a hacker to the general population, who didn't really know what a computer was or what a hacker was, but they nodded and we all knew it was so. Except for a few geeks that thought being a hacker sounded much more cool than being called a geek. So the geeks forfeit the quest for a life, and the quest to someday get laid (again ask your older brother about this not an adult), and they picked up this new futile quest to be called hackers and nobody cared.

A word only carries the meaning that most of us think it does. You are of course free to think something else, but don’t expect to be understood (or get laid).

Cheers

I’ll get my coat.

0
0
Paris Hilton

Hacker/unauthorized

As many above mention, he's not a hacker. If you disagree then lookup where (and WHEN) the term "hacker" comes from. It's from many years before the media tore it apart. But it has probably been googlewashed so much nobody can recognize it anymore.

And re: "is it really unauthorised access at all?", yes, it is unauthorized access. A computer cannot "authorize" anyone in this meaning. The computer system was designed with the INTENT that unauthorized users weren't allowed access, but just because this system fails (always human error, like too simple Qs/As) doesn't mean the "intruder" is authorized.

Am I authorized to enter a house with an easily pickable lock? Not where I come from at least. :-)

0
0
Thumb Down

Just more Palin-Failin'

What's all the fuss?

Palin's political career is over and out.

She will now go the way of the dinosaurs (that she can see from her backyard)

0
0
Linux

Not a cracker, or a hacker. +Seeker.

Did he use an exploit? Bruteforce? no -- not a cracker.

We all agree hacker means coder. Maybe even hex editor. "Dude I hacked my browser name"

That leaves "Seeker" reference: http://www.searchlores.org/password.htm

Seekers will be confronted more than once, on the web, with useful knowledge that has been "hidden"

They are attacking the wrong person here. This whole thing is lacking common sense, Sarah was asked about email accounts and denied it, a clever SEEKER proved to be somewhat of a whistleblower. Too bad his connection wasn't masked.

What about the lie Sarah told? How can she be trusted with any security clearance at this point?

I'm glad she isn't VP! She's a walking security leak!

0
0
Flame

@Tom

And following on any system that allows you to get a reminder is fair game? Including yours or loved ones?

0
0
Heart

@mr.K

Absolutely right!!!

For those who missed it:

The meaning of a word is whatever the majority of people believe it to mean.

English is a living language - this means that through common use the language changes over time. Over time, new words are added and others fall into disuse, and a word may during it's lifetime have numerous meanings (occasionally even becoming an antonym of it's earlier meaning).

0
0
Silver badge

@Jim

> Hacker vs Cracker? I think people should give up the ghost on that one,

I disagree. English is a precise language, when used precisely. When people can't get hacker,cracker, sciddy, social engineer (etc.) right WHEN USED IN THE CONTEXT OF COMPUTERS, I personally find it a useful marker as to whether or not I pay any attention to the technical aspects of the article and/or writer.

Obviously, your mileage may vary.

0
0

A hacker is

When I think of hacking, I think of using in depth knowledge of a system to make something work in ways it was never intended to work.

Most computer intrusion doesn't remotely qualify. They use someone else's automated tool based on yet another persons research then the randomly try systems until they get lucky and break in.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

@mr. K

However,

over here we call them "mobiles" or "mobile 'phones" or (if you're a reg hack) a "mobe"

and, as we know, (and fairly amusingly) in germany they refer to the device as a "handy" (sp?)

so, maybe "cell" wasn't the right thing to call them was it?

Maybe, Daddy 'Merca, your teenager, aka everywhere else in the world, wants to use cool words too.

signed

a hacker

0
0
Anonymous Coward

@is it really unauthorised access at all?

Of course it was unauthorised. He was clearly pretending to be Palin by answering questions intended to be answerable by her alone (as a backup in the case where she forgot her password). The questions were just badly chosen, making it easy to pretend he was her. His actions were exactly comparable to those of the people investigating the HP board leak by posing as board members to the phone company, and asking for duplicates of their phone records (and to the actions of those who paid others to do this posing for them). What happened to those people? I think I heard that one of them became financial advisor to a failed presidential candidate, but I never really heard what charges were brought, or how the court dealt with them.

The only difference is that he used a computer instead of a telephone to pretend to be someone else in order to see private information belonging to that person. It should be treated the same.

0
0
Stop

re: Time wasting and distraction

Yes. Indeed. However, the time wasting is that the offense is a misdemeanor and therefore bringing a criminal case is automatically void.

It would be as if I wrote a contract with illegal requirements in it. It would be void. Not because you didn't agree to it, but because I cannot ask them of you.

Wasting time indeed.

Palin should file PROPERLY.

PS James: A cracker cracks open a closed item. E.g. your locked door when you've forgotten/lost your keys or locked them inside.

So when you lock your keys in the car, do you just buy a new car, because the only way to get in is to get a cracker which you've defined as 100% always illegal?

Twonk.

0
0
Paris Hilton

re: Hacker/unauthorized

"And re: "is it really unauthorised access at all?", yes, it is unauthorized access. A computer cannot "authorize" anyone in this meaning."

But this person never accessed the machine. His machine did. Actually, not even that. It was Palin's ISP machine that accessed the machine.

And if you don't like that "sophistry" if a computer cannot authorise access,all the attempts Palin made to log in to the ISP computers and Google Mail were not authorised either. Sarah Palin hacked into Google's computers!!!!

Wally.

0
0
Paris Hilton

re: By Definition(s), He's a Hacker

"1. a person or thing that hacks.

2. Slang. a person who engages in an activity without talent or skill: weekend hackers on the golf course.

3. Computer Slang.

a. a computer enthusiast.

b. a microcomputer user who attempts to gain unauthorized access to proprietary computer systems."

It can't be Slang because it isn't a legal term. 1 is a tautology. Hardly a definition until you include the definition of "hack". And this wasn't a "hack".

If it is 3a, then we are all hackers so why the perjorative? It doesn't make sense. And 3b isn't right because it was authorised. Yahoo Mail authorised it. Just the same way as they authorised Sarah Palin's access to their computer systems. They didn't pop round and say personally "you're allowed" a computer program did it.

0
0

he is not a hacker

he is a freedom fighter

patroit?

brave investigative reportor?

basicley he exposed goverment coruption he needs a wistle blower reward not a crim record

0
0
Unhappy

Although...

Where it comes to terminology, I err on the side of 'cracker' here, even though I can see that in this case he isn't really a cracker.

He's just a tool. Some w*nkshaft who a TV show would show tapping away at a keyboard looking up and down at the keyboard and screen as if he was working hard at cracking his way into the excessively secure Government systems whilst Jack Bauer hunted him before he got into the email account that contained the secret list of ways of spelling viagra that get past spam filters.

Either that or someone was worried that if someone cracked into Palin's email they'd see just how much online shopping was done with the taxpayers credit card.

0
0
Paris Hilton

Is the crime the term or is the term the crime?

Governor Palin denied -officially denied, the existence of such e-mails.

So whose account has he opened? If nobody owns up to them, he didn't obtain anything worth having. If Mrs Palin now claims they are hers, why is she still Governor?

I am all for open government even if it means more trailer trash is asleep at the wheel. Lets see; so far we have had:

Dopey, Sleazy, Grumpy, Dozey, Happy, Lucky, Tricky and ....

0
0

@AC

"Palin's political career is over and out."

With any luck, though there seem to be persistent rumours that she might make a run in 2012 (for the presidency, not the Olympic team). If she was nominated, it would show very clearly that the Republicans hadn't learnt a damn thing about shit-for-brains morons in positions of authority...

0
0
Alien

Palin fizzy drink

Palin has always struck me as bit of an oddball, don't government types have their own sneaky OS based email client, i thought they were too meeeh to use hotmail and yahoo?

As for the hacker/cracker thing: Hasn't anyone considered the possibility that Sarah Palin hacked herself in an attempt to engineer a dreadful civil war so she can rule the world with her genetically modfied super dinosaurs leashed up in her back garden?

On a completely unrelated note; the picture of Palin the way she's bunched her face up looking to the side invokes thoughts of her hissing 'ffffffffizzy drinkss!'

0
0
Alert

Obviously the defense is rather weak

If they're busy fiddling with this kind of thing they obviously know they have little chance of defending the charge, they're just trying to alter the perception of the charge even though they know it's appropriate.

The term 'hacker' might not be strictly appropriate, and might not be mentioned in the statute but I'm sure it can be argued by the prosecution that the common usage of the terms matches what happened - prior press coverage may well be a good reference point. You'd find equivalent language used in other cases even if the strict definition of the words wasn't quite met, and the legalese of the statutes didn't mention it.

In any case I'm sure there's other language that could be used by the prosecutors which would achieve the same job, and quite likely put Kernell in an even worse light.

One suspects that even if they just stick to 'defendant' they might soon be referring to 'convicted felon' instead.

.

BTW, is anyone around here ever going to bother to do a follow up on the 'Palin didn't know Africa is a continent' story, revealing how it was all a spoof?

It's quite an interesting story, lots of people taken in by it. Plus there's a technology angle.

Of course, writing it would reveal how at least one writer around here was taken in too. But at least it might be vague relevant rather than just a random political story.

0
0
Heart

Sooo

I think we're missing the point here.

The point is how darn fit Sarah Palin is....mmmmmmm

0
0
Paris Hilton

nevermind the hacker/cracker crap

The real issue here is not the definitions between a hacker or a cracker, neither is it the unaurthorised access of a "protected" computer system.

The real issue is the utterly broken american legal system where the punishment no longer fits the crime, and usually, the wrong party is punished. That's the real reason we tune into these stories, and gasp with horror when some kid accidentally stumbles into an organisations system that is so open to attack, by rights the police should have immediately arrested the heads of department responsible for leaving customers data swinging in the breeze.

Instead, what we see is the systematic crusifiction of the inept teenager or the dilligent security profesional that alerted the company to their glaring inadequacies.

Yes the kid did wrong, but this warrants no more than a slap on the wrist. For the same reason we don't want to see Mkinnon extradited. We don't want to see one of our subjects caught up in one of the most backward judicial systems in the world.

The difference between guilt and innocence in America is decided by nothing more than how much you pay your lawyers. As recent evidence has shown, you'll get a much fairer trial and punishment in Cuba.

In this case though, it's a rich kid, who's daddy is a lawyer. As much as I hate to see the inequalities of the legal system in action, I'm praying that this will go to trial, in the vein hope that the kids dad wins, and in the process sets a precident that in turn helps the little man in some small way.

Paris, because she buys only the finest of justice

0
0
Thumb Down

cracker, hacker, unauthorised? hacked off

at the risk of beating a dead horse...

I would suggest common usage is as follows:

hack - a clever work-around or solution to a particular problem

crack - the breaking of a system by subverting the way software is executed (eg buffer overflow followed by root-kit installation)

So a cracker could be a hacker or perhaps merely a script-kiddie. Equally, a hacker could be a cracker but may be just a clever perl coder.

Unauthorised access - This is normally framed in terms of hardware (unauthorised access to routers or corporate web servers etc) where the "user" has no right to be, by hack or by crack. Given the pubic nature of webmail services, this isn't the case, so we are down to whether its illegal to look at particular entries in a database if you have rights to access the host the database resides on. If using some-else's login turns out to be a criminal offence, a whole lotta people are going to be in trouble, including my wife!

In this case, there was neither a crack (altering of the software running) nor a hack (requiring some ingenuity and skill with the system).

In this case, yes it was a bit naughty but sometimes you need to take sensible precautions for yourself without relying on the law to protect you, in much the same way that you don't step in front of a speeding lorry just because you're on a zebra crossing and have right-of-way.

Don't use public email services for important stuff. Don't stick post-it notes with your passwords on the monitor and don't leave clues to your passwords on public web servers!

Of course, politicians and prosecutors are always playing up the risks and dangers of the people they wish to get rid of, so its no surprise that guessing a password is being portrayed as "hacking", in much the same way that holding live music events pose a terrorist risk...

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: @mr.K

That is absolute bollocks. Are you talking across languages? I doubt it. Are you talking across dialects. Probably.

Just because Americans manage to pervert parts of it on a regular basis doesn't mean that everyone is going follow their lead.

Favourite example: verbiage. Means an excess of flowery words to try and hide the point. In American it's become synonymous with "text". I find the irony of this amusing.

"English is a living language" What the fuck does that mean? People use it? Well spotted.

0
0
Silver badge

Points missed galore

A key point raised by the defense is that the intrusion (which it was) was not used to further any crime, and if the law states this is a misdemeanor (like running a red light, or speeding), then it should be treated as such. How many people clamouring for his imprisonment would be in there themselves if speeding, or other misdemeanors, landed you there?

The whistleblower aspect is a good point raised by many, but the point above is more powerful in defense, I think.

Anyway, why is Palin not on trial for breeching state (and/or federal) laws for using unauthorised e-mail accounts for state business?

0
0
Black Helicopters

Palin into insignificance?

> Palin's political career is over and out. She will now go the way of the dinosaurs (that she can see from her backyard)

Remembering that this refers to America, the terrifying thing is that her career in national politics may only be beginning...

Be afraid, be very afraid.

0
0
Joke

RE: Just more Palin-Failin'

Oh but I thought she's going to run for president in 2012 if god tells her to.

0
0

@Rab S

It isn't hacking.

NOTE FOR THE HARD OF THINKING: Tom et al aren't saying "Let the kid go, he's done nothing wrong", they're saying he's not a hacker and this isn't a CRIMINAL case. But a misdemeanour is still "not legal".

0
0
Boffin

@mr.K

This whole subjective meaning of words gig is all well and good, but it conflicts with the business of the courtroom, which has the purpose of finding "truth" (based on the somewhat outdated preconception that, in spite of all our subjective realities, there is only one Truth, which is a theoretical world much like Flatland or Alaska, where nobody in their right mind actually lives).

Therefore it seems reasonable that lawyers ask, in the interest of finding Truth, to refrain from the use of words whose meaning is so muddied by misuse as to cause confusion even among the experts (or at least people of some education) reading this site.

Language should be subjective, dynamic and in perpetual flux. The law should not.

0
0
Stop

Crackers, Hackers & programmers

It's something we put jam / cheese / pickle on, else it's something you pull on Xmas day.

Computer geeks, stop stealing the English language.

What you call a hacker is really a programmer. Please use the correct term.

So annoying... :-)

0
0
Black Helicopters

I am surprised

I would have thought they would have just called him a terrorist. Certain conviction from an American jury then.

0
0
Thumb Up

mr.K - make that PROFESSOR K

"As time passed some words turned out to be too long, too complicated or too “uncool” for the youngsters, so they changed them to shorter and better words. The elder people didn't agree on this, but since they die first they tend to loose. So some words were thus changed and shortened"

Brilliant. A thesis on the evolution of language summarised in three sentences. Slightly OT, but its friday lunch so what the hey

0
0
Alien

Gary Mckinnon

is he a hacker or cracker?

If this guy gets off for cracking a password and publishing stuff on the web then presumably this would bode well for Mckinnon - who I believe has done neither.

0
0

Ed Mozley

"If this guy gets off for cracking a password and publishing stuff on the web then presumably this would bode well for Mckinnon - who I believe has done neither."

This guy did neither, too. And he's an american. So I don't see much in the way of hope that a foreign "hacker" is going to get anything other than fully reamed by the US DoD who are desperate to prove it wasn't *their* fault.

0
0

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.