Blown To Bits

Serious Charges For Breaking Into Palin’s Email Account

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008 by Harry Lewis

David C. Kernell, the college student who allegedly broke into Sarah Palin’s email account, has been indicted by a federal grand jury for intentionally accessing her account without authorization. You will recall (previous blog post here) that someone boasted of doing this by getting her password reset through knowledge of the answers to three security questions — birthdate, ZIP code, and where she met her husband.

It appears that the young man is being charged under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The press release goes on to state,

If convicted of the charge, the defendant faces a maximum of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and a three year term of supervised release.

A few days ago, experts were speculating that he would probably be up on a misdemeanor, and unlikely to do any significant jail time.

“It would be a stretch to charge a felony [in the Palin case], but if they want to be hard on [the hacker], they could do that,” [former DOJ computer crime prosecutor Mark] Rasch said. “I wouldn’t have predicted that they would use that argument in the MySpace case, but they did. So they could certainly do that to [Palin’s hacker].”

The MySpace case is the case of Lori Drew, discussed in Blown to Bits. It looks as though the prosecutors have decided to throw the book at Mr. Kernell, as they did at Ms. Drew.

In the article on email privacy I published yesterday, I mention the Palin incident, not venturing to speculate on its criminality, given Mark Rasch’s doubt about what prosecutors might do. The case will be interesting to watch.

2 Responses to “Serious Charges For Breaking Into Palin’s Email Account”

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