iPad e-mail hackers defend attack as 'ethical'

Have not heard from FBI, which is investigating AT&T breach

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Bloggers who have slammed Goatse over its disclosure are jealous that the group gave Gawker and ValleyWag an exclusive, Auernheimer said. "A majority of the people who have been critical are just upset that we went to Gawker with it," he added.

Only iPad 3G owners' ICC-ID numbers and e-mail addresses were obtained from AT&T's servers, Auernheimer said, confirming what the carrier claimed earlier this week.

Since then, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has launched an investigation into the address acquisition. The FBI said it was trying to decide if Goatse violated U.S. laws.

But according to Auernheimer, the agency has not contacted anyone belonging to Goatse. "No, we have had no contact with law enforcement," he said, adding that he doesn't believe the group broke the law.

In a blog post earlier today, Auernheimer spelled out Goatse's case. "All data was gathered from a public webserver with no password, accessible by anyone on the Internet," he wrote. "There was no breach, intrusion, or penetration, by any means of the word."

But Auernheimer wasn't sure that he and the other member of Goatse would not be prosecuted. "Hopefully, we aren't, but a [prosecutor] can get a grand jury to do anything," he said.

"We stand by what we did," Auernheimer said. "We love America and did this in the public interest."

AT&T declined comment, and referred Computerworld to the statement it issued earlier this week. In that statement, AT&T made no mention of any illegalities, saying only that, "The person or group who discovered this gap did not contact AT&T."

Apple has not responded to requests for comment on the iPad owner e-mail disclosure.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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