Online group accused in iPad hacking denies crime

/ Source: The Associated Press

An online group implicated in the theft of more than 100,000 e-mail addresses of Apple iPad users says two of its members who were arrested did nothing wrong.

Daniel Spitler and Andrew Auernheimer, arrested Tuesday, face counts of fraud and conspiracy to access a computer without authorization. The counts each carry a five-year maximum prison sentence.

Spitler, a bookstore security guard from San Francisco, and Auernheimer, who's from Fayetteville, Ark., are involved in a group known as Goatse Security, described in Tuesday's criminal complaint as a "loose association of Internet hackers and self-professed Internet 'trolls,'" or people who disrupt Internet services and content.

In an e-mail to The Associated Press late Tuesday, Goatse Security said Spitler and Auernheimer acted in the public interest by exposing a flaw in AT&T's security system.

"GoatseSecurity still holds the position that no criminal act was committed," the unsigned e-mail reads. "Spitler and Auernheimer acted entirely within the law, and entirely for the interests of public security. The flaw was quite literally stumbled upon; AT&T was never targeted, and upon gathering of the data, it was not sold, distributed, or used otherwise (although it certainly had the potential to be used quite maliciously)."

U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said Tuesday the investigation was continuing but there was no evidence the suspects used the information for criminal purposes.

Spitler was released on $50,000 bail Tuesday and is due back in court in New Jersey in March. A U.S. magistrate ordered him not to use the Internet except at his job at a Borders bookstore.

Spitler, 26, maintains his innocence and says he's "not worried about this case at all."

"The information in the complaint is false," he said outside court Tuesday. "This case has been blown way out of proportion."

Auernheimer, 25, is in custody in his hometown pending a bail hearing Friday. He has mocked the case against him, telling federal officials in the courtroom, "This is a great affidavit — fantastic reading."