Student faces 20 years in jail for guessing email password

Posted on May 7, 2010


An American college student is looking at the prospect of spending the next 20 years behind bars just because he guessed the obvious password for former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

Palin was using her Yahoo email,, for important US government business, instead of the secure emails given to her by the government. As her password for this email account, rather than using some carefully chosen algorithmic password, Palin was using the name of the place where she met her husband. Very secure indeed.

As this sort of information is public knowledge, college student David Kernell took a stab and tried her Yahoo email account, successfully being able to access it. He then changed her password and posted screenshots of some of her emails on a message board for his friends to see.

For this prank Kernell is now facing 20 years in prison, as ‘hacking’ into a government email account is taken very seriously in the US.

Palin commented on the trial on Facebook, comparing the incident to Watergate – though we don’t remember Richard Nixon haven’t a ridiculously simple password on his emails:

My family and I are thankful that the jury thoroughly and carefully weighed the evidence and issued a just verdict.

Violating the law, or simply invading someone’s privacy for political gain, has long been repugnant to Americans’ sense of fair play.

As Watergate taught us, we rightfully reject illegally breaking into candidates’ private communications for political intrigue in an attempt to derail an election.

As well as the prospect of 20 years in jail, Kernell also faces fines of £66,000 for computer fraud and a further £165,000 for obstruction of justice.

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