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Tracking the Palin Hacker: Update

4:14 PM, Sep 22, 2008 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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The FBI reportedly arrived at the suspect David Kernell's Tennessee apartment at around midnight Saturday while a party was in progress. They took pictures of the apartment, took down names of the party-goers (though some reports say many of them high-tailed it out of there as soon as they arrived), and subpoenaed Kernell's three roommmates, according to witnesses.

Wired wonders whether the alleged hacker could get jail time if guilty
, and concludes: not likely and not much. Due to the DOJ's previous interpretations of the Stored Communications Act, the hacker in this case may only be able to be charged with a misdemeanor under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

As mentioned above, the hacker could still be prosecuted under the CFAA, though likely for a misdemeanor, not a felony, since there was no actual loss that resulted from the hack. More specifically, he'd be prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. 1030(a)(2)(C), accessing a protected computer without authorization to obtain information.

Rasch says if the hacker were charged with a misdemeanor, he would likely face a sentence of zero to six months, depending on his history, attitude and contrition. If the hacker were to come forward and apologize to Palin and tell the FBI exactly what he did, prosecutors might take this into consideration.

"If the government treats this for what it really is, which was a kid who was curious to see if he could do this . . . then the kid should be in reasonably good shape" and face "little, if any, jail time," Rasch said.

Although there is also a possibility the government could charge the hacker with a felony under the CFAA depending on the whim of the prosecutor and whether he argued that the invasion of Palin's privacy was a tortious act.