Sarah Palin Testifies Against Hacker

Liz De La Torre

For what it’s worth, American politician Sarah Palin is back in the news. Whether it’s the hockey mom’s take on dinosaurs living with humans 4,000 years ago or Russia being “our next door neighbor,” there is never a dull moment with the large conundrum that is Sarah Palin. Still fending attacks from naysayers who deem her an embarrassing representation of the average American or an incompetent failure in the American political structure, this time, she’s taking action against 22 year-old former college student David Kernell. Kernell hacked her Yahoo! e-mail account during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Kernell, a former student at the University of Tennessee, breached Palin’s account after she disclosed using Yahoo! e-mail for state business. He correctly answered security questions by googling her birth date, zip code, and where she met her husband. He then allegedly published the e-mail contents and private material online under the pseudonym “rubico” where he bragged about the hacking and changed her password to “popcorn.” His attorney, Wade Davies, argued that the password was achieved using public information. As she testified on Apr. 23, Palin recounted how her family’s e-mails, pictures, and phone numbers were exposed on the Internet which resulted in harassing calls, text messages, and e-mails that fueled rumors about an affair and speculation that her youngest child, Trig, wasn’t her son.

While Palin testified that she could not recall being warned to change her Yahoo! e-mail account, a former Palin assistant admitted to setting up the account at her request despite advising her to make changes because the password could be easily discovered.

There is speculation that Kernell, the son of a Democratic lawmaker, was trying to ruin her vice-presidential campaign though he maintains he was simply trying to access her private e-mail. His attorney calls the case a college prank and denies Kernell having any criminal intent. Asked what punishment would be suitable for an e-mail breach, Palin said, “I don’t know, but I do think there should be consequences for bad behavior.” David Kernell, who is charged with identity theft, mail fraud, and two other felony charges, currently faces a maximum of 50 years in federal prison if convicted.