msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 6/16/2010 10:28:46 PM ET 2010-06-17T02:28:46

The FBI Wednesday searched the home of one of the alleged hackers who breached AT&T's website, capturing 114,000 e-mail addresses of Apple iPad 3G customers, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

Andrew "Escher" Auernheimer, a member of Goatse, the group that hacked AT&T's website recently, was in jail in Arkansas on charges related to illegal drugs found during the FBI's search of his Fayetteville, Ark. home, the Journal reported.

The FBI said last week it was opening a probe into what happened in the website hacking case. AT&T apologized to its customers. The wireless carrier, just like the hacking group, is being investigated, although AT&T characterized the hackers' actions as malicious, criticizing it for not notifying the wireless carrier first about the security hole, and instead going to the media.

Some publications this week criticized Auernheimer, who is in his 20s. Philip Elmer-DeWitt of Fortune wrote in "The Ugliest Hacker," that "it's unlikely that the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times would have run profiles of Auernheimer if they'd heard him rant against the 'Jew media,' disparage Black Americans, or take sick pleasure in the deaths of celebrities, from Ed McMahon to Farah Fawcett."

On Goatse's blog this week, Auernheimer said, "When we disclosed this, we did it as a service to our nation ...We understand that good deeds many times go punished, and AT&T is trying to crucify us over this.

"The fact remains that there was not a hint of maliciousness in our disclosure. We disclosed only to a single journalist and destroyed the data afterward. We did the right thing, and I will stand by the actions of my team and protect the finder of this bug no matter what the cost."

The hackers shared their findings with online publication Valleywag to point out security flaws in AT&T's Web servers, the group said.

"We began poring through the 114,067 entries and were stunned at the names we found," Valleywag said on its site last week. Friday, the FBI contacted Gawker Media, the parent company of Valleywag, advising officials there to retain documents in connection with the case.

In an interview last week with CNET, Auernheimer said hackers did not go to AT&T first with its findings because "we did want not (to) engage directly with AT&T in case they tried to serve us (an injunction) or something."

He said the group has "nine core members and a number of subcontractors."

The iPad 3G went on sale April 30 in the United States. It uses either Wi-Fi or AT&T's 3G cellular service to connect to the Internet for Web surfing and e-mail. A Wi-Fi only iPad was offered first, in early April.

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