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Update: What’s next in the Palin hacking case?

By / October 8, 2008



Today we got the latest word on the Gov. Sarah Palin's hacked e-mail account.

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David Kernell, the University of Tennessee student suspected of breaking into the governor's personal e-mail account, turned himself in to the FBI this morning and headed to federal court for his arraignment. He pleaded not guilty to the one count of accessing a computer without permission.

While he was released today without bond, the upcoming trial carries some serious weight. He faces up to five years in prison (one-quarter of his 20-year-old life), another three years of "supervised release," and a $250,000 fine.

Yesterday's indictment didn't provide much new insight into Mr. Kernell's alleged hack – mostly because someone going by the online name "Rubico" (which prosecuters think was Kernell) posted a fairly detailed account of how he broke into the Palin's Yahoo e-mail. We reported on the backstory here.

The hacker also showed the vulnerability of many web-mail services, such as the vice presidential candidate’s Yahoo e-mail. Rubico describes sneaking into the personal account by guessing the simple security questions set up by the governor: where she met her husband, her birthday, and home Zip code. After answering them correctly, Yahoo issued the hacker a new password, “popcorn.”
A quick Google search could uncover such data for many public figures, yet many of us still use such easy hurdles to secure our e-mail, banking, and credit-card accounts.
With little new news on the subject to report, many media reports have turned their attention to Kernell’s father, state Rep. Mike Kernell, the Democratic chairman of the Tennessee Government Operations Committee. “I was not a party to anything of this nature at all,” he told the AP. “I wasn’t in on this – and I wouldn’t know how to do anything like that.”

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