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Man sentenced to probation in celebrity iPad hack attack

Image: Daniel Spitler
Daniel Spitler leaves the U.S. District Court in Newark, N.J. on Jan. 18, 2011. Spitler and another hacker stole the e-mail addresses of more than 100,000 Apple iPad users.Bill Kostroun / AP

NEWARK, N.J. — A San Francisco man was sentenced to three years' probation on Friday for stealing the personal information of some 120,000 Apple iPad users, including big-city mayors, a TV network news anchor and a Hollywood movie mogul.

But Daniel Spitler avoided a possible 18-month prison sentence for what a New Jersey judge described as his evident remorse.

Spitler pleaded guilty in June 2011 to charges including identity theft and conspiracy to access AT&T servers without permission. He testified against his hacking partner, Andrew Auernheimer, who was sentenced in March to three years and five months in prison.

"You have shown genuine remorse for your actions, Mr. Spitler, and I hope that it is sincere," said U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton.

In a hearing at federal court in Newark, Spitler was also ordered to pay $73,167 in restitution.

Spitler's lawyer declined to comment after the sentencing.

Spitler and Aurenheimer hacked into the Apple devices of well-known people including ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer, then-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein, prosecutors said.

The men used an "account slurper" designed to match email addresses with identifiers for iPad users, prosecutors said, in what they described as a "brute force" attack to extract data about those users.

This stolen information was then provided to the website Gawker, which published an article naming personalities whose emails had been compromised, prosecutors said.

Gawker was not charged in the case.

After the breach, AT&T, which provided wireless service on the iPad, shut off the feature that allowed email addresses to be obtained.