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Hacking Sarah Palin

The college student who broke into Palin's email faces sentencing

2 min read
Hacking Sarah Palin

It’s not easy being a politician’s son. Just ask David Kernell.  

The 22-year-old grew up as the golden-haired son of a golden boy of Tennessee politics: longtime Democrat legislator, Mike Kernell, chairman of Tennessee's House Government Operations Committee.

In the fall of 2008, his father was embroiled in a fight for reelection against a formidable opponent:  Tim Cook, a Homeland Security Special Agent and member of the FBI Gang Task Force.  David watched the battle from the sidelines, while he attended the University of Tennessee, an undeclared major living off campus with friends.  In the wee hours of Sunday September 21, however, David was having a party with friends when a team of FBI agents showed up.  The party-goers assumed there had been a noise violation, as the agents spent the next couple hours photographing the people and place.   But one kid wasn’t there to see the action unfold – David Kernell had slipped out the back door. 

On March 10, 2009, Kernell had nowhere to run as he stood in a US district court in Knoxville.  That day, the Feds filed felony charges against him for the most notorious cybercrime in years:   hacking into Sarah Palin’s email at the height of the presidential race.  Kernell was allegedly the hacker known as Rubico, who, posted a long explanation of how he busted into Palin’s Yahoo mail account.

"I really wanted to get something incriminating which I was sure there would be," he blogged.  The craziest thing of all was how easy it was for him to break in.  “It took seriously 45 mins on wikipedia and google to find the info,” he wrote.  But after successfully changing her password to Popcorn, the reality hit him hard. "It finally set in,” he continued, “THIS internet was serious business, yes I was behind a proxy, only one, if this shit ever got to the FBI I was fucked, I panicked, i still wanted the stuff out there but I didn't know how to rapid [share] all that stuff, so I posted the pass…and then promptly deleted everything, and unplugged my internet and just sat there in a comatose state."

in April, Kernell was convicted of obstructing justice and unauthorized access to a computer. He faces sentencing in October.  Though the case has not been found to be politically motivated, politicians and pundits have seized the story as just that.  "The fact that a Democratic activist - and possibly an Obama supporter - could go to these lengths is deeply disturbing and criminal," said Republican National Committee spokesman Danny Diaz.

Earlier this year, hackers broke into the Facebook page of UK Conservative Bill Wiggin, Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, and used it to invite his “friends” to view free webcam sex shows.  Not long before that, a candidate in Edinburgh named Cammy Day claimed hackers had hijacked his email address to post hateful comments about his opponent online. "In the last two months I have had to change my password twice to my Hotmail account, so someone is obviously trying to hack into my account,” he lamented, “I would suggest it is someone in the other parties who is trying to cause mischief."

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Why the Internet Needs the InterPlanetary File System

Peer-to-peer file sharing would make the Internet far more efficient

12 min read
An illustration of a series
Carl De Torres

When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in early 2020, the world made an unprecedented shift to remote work. As a precaution, some Internet providers scaled back service levels temporarily, although that probably wasn’t necessary for countries in Asia, Europe, and North America, which were generally able to cope with the surge in demand caused by people teleworking (and binge-watching Netflix). That’s because most of their networks were overprovisioned, with more capacity than they usually need. But in countries without the same level of investment in network infrastructure, the picture was less rosy: Internet service providers (ISPs) in South Africa and Venezuela, for instance, reported significant strain.

But is overprovisioning the only way to ensure resilience? We don’t think so. To understand the alternative approach we’re championing, though, you first need to recall how the Internet works.

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