The ugliest computer hacker

June 17, 2010, 9:00 AM UTC

Out of what hole did Andrew Auernheimer and his gang of iPad hackers crawl?

The iProphet. Source: iTunes Store

The hacker ethic has taken a long downward slide since Steve Levy traced it back to its roots at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in his classic  “Hackers, Heroes of the Computer Revolution” (1984).

But few have dragged it deeper in the mud than Andrew Auernheimer, 24, a member of the Goatse Security gang that claimed responsibility for pulling the device IDs and e-mail addresses of more than 114,000 iPad owners through a hole in AT&T’s (T) network.

Auernheimer’s arrest as reported by CNET earlier this week on felony drug charges is the least of it. We know plenty of good people who have been charged with possession of cocaine, Ecstasy, LSD, and schedule 2 and 3 pharmaceuticals.

But it takes special kind of ignorance to produce The iProphet — the 12 racist, antisemitic and frankly lunatic podcasts still available for download, as Edible Apple first reported, on Apple’s (AAPL) own iTunes Store.

Given how unhinged he appears to be, Auernheimer has gotten a remarkably free ride from the press over the years, especially from Gawker Media’s Valleywag, which credited him with a 2009 homophobic hack of Amazon’s bookstore and broke the AT&T story last Sunday after Goatse (a sly reference to an obscene meme) fed it to them. Auernheimer’s published defense of Goatse’s iPad exploit was widely quoted in the media:

“We did it as a service to our nation,” he wrote. “We love America and the idea of the Russians or Chinese being able to subvert American infrastructure is a nightmare.”

But it’s unlikely that the
Wall Street Journal
or the New York Times would have run profiles of Auernheimer if they’d heard him rant against the “Jew media,” disparage Black Americans, or take sick pleasure in the deaths of celebrities, from Ed McMahon to Farah Fawcett.

There’s plenty of Auernheimer — or “Weev” as he likes to call himself — on the Web, but we’ll follow Edible Apple’s lead and not do him the favor of providing any links.

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[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]