Palin e-mail hacker indicted, pleads not guilty. Is justice being served?

Palin e-mail hacker indicted, pleads not guilty. Is justice being served?

Summary: Justice is being served against the kid who allegedly hacked into Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin's Yahoo email account, right?David Kernell, the 20-year-old son of Democratic Tennessee state representative Mike Kernell and a student at the University of Tennessee, was indicted on a charge of accessing a computer without authorization and entered a plea of not guilty in U.

SHARE:

Justice is being served against the kid who allegedly hacked into Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin's Yahoo email account, right?

David KernellDavid Kernell, the 20-year-old son of Democratic Tennessee state representative Mike Kernell and a student at the University of Tennessee, was indicted on a charge of accessing a computer without authorization and entered a plea of not guilty in U.S. District Court today.  He was released on his own recognizance but is ordered back in court on Dec. 2 with a trial set for Dec. 16. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

Also see: Kernell indicted in break-in to Palin’s Yahoo email

As part of his release, a few other restrictions were imposed. Here's where it gets good:

  • A ban on owning a computer.
  • Restriction of Internet use to e-mail and college coursework only.
  • No contact with Gov. Palin or her family
  • No travel outside eastern Tennessee without approval from a probation officer.

Is this justice? I can maybe see the thing about owning a computer - though isn't that what they do to suspected pedophiles? (And did anyone check to see if the kid has an iPhone?) I can even understand the Internet limitations - taking away MySpace and YouTube for most 20-year-olds is like cutting off an arm. The Palin stay-away order is a gimme. But then there's this thing about leaving eastern Tennessee. What's that all about?

OK, the kid committed a crime. Yes. A lot of kids (of all ages) commit similar acts that might be seen as even more harmful - such as creating a panic on Wall Street (like those guys need anymore problems.) Was Kernell really deserving of the imposed conditions? Or was that just a way to teach this kid a lesson? What would have happened to some kid if he hacked into my personal Yahoo account? Or yours?

One other interesting thing to note: the exact language of the indictment (PDF) alleges that David Kernell "intentionally and without authorization accessed a protected computer by means of an interstate communication and thereby obtained information, and did aid and abet in same."

I hate to split hairs here, but whose computer did he access? Isn't Yahoo Mail stored in the cloud or did Palin have her mail stored on a client on her own personal machine? Again, splitting hairs about the language of the charge - but people get off on technicalities all the time. And then there's the other charge of unlawful access to stored communications, which could be harder to fight. Last month, The Electronic Frontier Foundation, in its blog, found a little loophole that could impact the ability of the Department of Justice to charge this kid for a violation of the Stored Communications Act.

Also see: Can a case be made against the Palin e-mail hacker?

Topics: Security, CXO, Collaboration, Hardware, Social Enterprise

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

71 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Excuses

    Why do people excuse crimes that don't hurt someone financially or physically? The kid knew what he was doing was wrong, anyone with even a hint of ethics knows that it was wrong, and anyone that defends a persons right to privacy knows that this was wrong. Why are people sticking up for this kid? Oh it's ok, he just screwed over another worthless politician.

    If the kid had gone to Palin's house, found it unlocked, and then rifled through her documents and photo copied them would we still think it's ok?

    I know, it's her fault for having such a sorry excuse for a password, she was just asking for it right?

    People need to stand up for individual rights even when you dislike the victim or you will be next.
    relwolf
    • The guy didn't "guess" the password

      He actually had it changed by using Yahoo's password reset option. Since the 3 questions Yahoo sets are generic and easy to find the answer by using just Google, he was able to reset the password and get into her account.
      wackoae
    • Nail the bastard...

      Another snotty nosed child of the privileged who thought he was above the law... Nail him to the full extent!

      Here's another idea for password recovery; have the system (Yahoo mail, etc.) send a text message to a saved cell phone number indicating the request.
      BigPoiDog
      • Text Message?

        Believe it or not, not everyone has access to text messaging, let alone a cell phone. Granted, there could be better ways of password recovery...
        meberhard@...
  • RE: Palin e-mail hacker indicted, pleads not guilty. Is justice being served?

    as a network admin i do not take kindly to hackers. billion on dollars are lost every year combating hackers wrecking havoc on our business information systems. the transportation of intelectual properties (email, cad files, accounting info and the rest) over the internet is an important inovation of this century, and i as an IT professional believe that those individuals willfully enganging the criminal act of stealing these assets should be punished to the full extend of the law. it may start as a prank to intercept sarah palin's email, but it could have very well be your social security numbers, your healthcare records, your bank account number.
    tmcgrane
  • RE: Palin e-mail hacker indicted

    If someone opened your U.S. mail box and took your mail he
    or she would be prosecuted and possibly jailed . . . this is no
    different.
    Richard Platt
  • RE: Palin e-mail hacker indicted, pleads not guilty. Is justice being served?

    That's a slap on the wrist. He should just shave his head and go chill in Canada. The "Kid" is almost 21 years old so he old enough to make his own decisions. Yahoo has the worst authentication/security measures I've every seen. Anyway, don't do anything I won't do or have done :)
    Unkown User
  • RE: Palin e-mail hacker indicted, pleads not guilty. Is justice being served?

    Paranoid America again. Its a bit overkill, after all You can kill someone and still have access to a PC (in prison).. hey ho.
    brookeandy
    • RE: Palin e-mail hacker indicted, pleads not guilty. Is justice being serve

      You might have access to computer-(which is still wrong- you are being punished for a crime you should not have privileges) however you do not (hopefully) have a weapon to do damage. This Man (not a child) used the computer as a weapon to inflict harm. Someones privacy was invaded. How you feel if was yours?
      khillen
  • RE: Palin e-mail hacker indicted, pleads not guilty. Is justice being served?

    Which also is very very wrong but that's a topic for a whole different thread.
    derbes@...
  • RE: Palin e-mail hacker indicted, pleads not guilty. Is justice being served?

    The two examples are excellent synonyms for what he did:
    Open a physical mail box and rifle thru someone's mail is a Federal Crime.
    Walking into someone's house rifling thru their belongings and leaving is also a crime.

    The limitations seem fair.
    The crime is computer related, no access to computer.
    The other limits are to mitigate flight risk. He may or may not be a flight risk but you do not want to find out when he is on a flight.
    Cisco-SA
  • RE: Palin e-mail hacker indicted, pleads not guilty. Is justice being served?

    Today we rely on computers, the Internet and service providers to communicate, do business, study,etc. He need to have our privacy and security protected from people like David Kernell.
    These people must be tought a lesson. It is not the people involved that matter,it is the principle.
    dasilvaa@...
  • RE: Palin e-mail hacker indicted, pleads not guilty. Is justice being serve

    What disturbs me here is the same thing that disturbed
    me a while ago, when ZDNet was posting content from
    Palin's hacked mailbox. Just like many others, I
    thought this was not correct - certainly not for a
    company like ZDNET.

    Now I have the same feeling yet again. It is NOT
    appropriate for someone at the level of an
    authoritative site like ZDNet to put questions like
    "Is this justice?" and things like "I hate to split
    hairs here, but whose computer did he access?"

    It is not that I want to make this personal (I don't
    even know who mr. Diaz is) but on ZDNet this gives me
    a bad taste in the mouth. An attitude of insubordination is something I would expect on an
    amateuristic website, not on ZDNet. I say this even
    while 5 years prison for this guy is way too much in
    my opinion. But you should have left such opinion to
    your readers, not suggest it yourself. You are
    breaking the rules. What is going on at ZDNet??
    *bernie
    • so what do you want...

      ...just to be told what to believe on this matter, rather than discussing it?....feeling a little Borg are we?


      zombie anyone....mindless zombie....anyone?
      2WiReD
  • RE: Palin e-mail hacker indicted, pleads not guilty. Is justice being served?

    what happened to the people who did the watergate deal? they were tampering with election stuff, and so did this kid no matter what type of tampering he did!
    mj5410
  • Kid?

    First of all, this is not a 'kid'. He is a 20 year old adult. An excusable kid crime might be a 13 year old trying his hand at hacking. Illegal as well, but would not be charged as an adult.

    Secondly, if word gets around that someone could hack Yahoo email and get a slap on the wrist, what would happen to Yahoo's business? It has financial implications if this man is treated with 'kid gloves'.
    DRezanka
  • RE: Palin e-mail hacker indicted, pleads not guilty. Is justice being served?

    The same thing should happen to him that happened to the contractors that breached Obama's passport files.
    Michael_Knight
  • RE: Palin e-mail hacker indicted, pleads not guilty. Is justice being served?

    My guess is that this kid, guy, whatever you wanna call him (personally, anyone 8 or more years younger than me is a kid), will probably receive special treatment - right, wrong or indifferent - because of who his Daddy is. Personally, I don't think that any of the restrictions imposed upon him as a condition of his release are unreasonable. As a matter of fact, I feel they are surprisingly lenient. Regardless of whether Gov. Palin using Yahoo! to conduct State business is smart, right, wrong or whatever, David Kernell's unauthorized access to her personal account is against the law and he should bear the consequences thereof. As many other readers have already posted, accessing someone's U.S. Mailbox is a federal crime and this instance is no different.
    mbrello@...
  • How many hypocrits will surface here?

    I do not condone what the young man did. It was an invasion of privacy and he should be admonished. But does the punishment fit the crime?
    And as long as you are all throwing stones, why overlook the fact that Palin was conducting state business through personal Email?
    This young man deserves a slap on the wrist, no more. Palin deserves to be held in contempt for abuse of power and violating the rules of the FOIA.
    To use a medical analogy, several of you "doctors" are treating the shaving cut while the patient is having a heart attack!
    Bebedo
    • It finally raised it's ugly head

      I wondered where you were "Bebedo". Left wing radical socialist who believe anything you do, including crimes, is perfectly ok if you do it for the "left" purpose not the right reason. Slap on the wrist. Man you need to be slapped but not on the wrist. Incidentally, many child predators sound exactly like you, also.
      yamapfaff@...