Andrew Aurenheimer, part of the hacker group Goatse who goes by the handle "weev", was recently indicted on charges of gaining unauthorized access to computers and identity theft in relation to last year's AT&T iPad customer support hack.
Aurenheimer and a fellow Gostse member revealed a vulnerability in the company's website and that could have exposed the account details of over 114,000 customers.
“There was no password, no firewall, no breaking or entering. All I did was inform people that AT&T had put them at risk," Aurenheimer told Forbe's Parmy Olson in a phone interview.
Aurenheimer's indictment is one of multiple actions brought by law enforcement in a hacker crackdown targeting rogue groups including the likes of Anonymous and offshoot LulzSec after a series of high profile network intrusions.
Aurenheimer compares his actions and those of other hacktivists as being on par with previous acts of civil disobedience in pursuit of a higher social cause.
“I look at it like the precursor to revolution. I really think this is throwing tea in the bay. I’m tired of seeing a financial industry suck at the trough of 401K’s, looting my nation and leaving us a third-world country... What I do never involves hacking. It just involves public records,” Aurenheimer said.
Aurenheimer, though, does take exception to the antics of some of the the other hacker collectives, namely those involved in the AniSec movement, who he believes cross a line that he himself would not.
On the LulzSec breaches, he states: “They’re publishing people’s authentication data, which puts the average member of the public at risk. I would never do that. Those are the people we have to defend.”
Aurenheimer also criticizes international whistleblower organization Wikileaks for their publication of sensitive government documents.
“I think [Julian] Assange has done more harm than good... Great things happen because people keep secrets… You can use lies to tell the truth and you can use truth to tell lies and Assange is doing the latter.”
But Aurenheimer's harshest criticism is saved for federal law enforcement, who he believes is more concerned with maintaining corporate interests than pursuing crimes aimed at the average citizen.
“[The Feds] worry a lot more about civil disobedience than my grandma getting robbed. They worry about the social integrity of their people staying in power."
Aurenheimer, who faces the prospect of serving up to fifteen years in federal prison for his participation in the AT&T iPad breach, believes that there will be an increase in hacktivist activities, and that the recent spate of arrests will only serve to empower the movement.
"I think that martyrdom has always triggered more activity. You can put people like me in cells all that you want. There will be 30 more like me," Aurenheimer said.