Two col­lege stu­dents are fac­ing fed­er­al prison time for attempt­ing to hack into Pres­i­dent Trump’s tax returns, as report­ed by Cyber­Scoop. Andrew Har­ris, 24, and Justin Hiem­stra, 22, tried to import the president’s finan­cial records through a Free Appli­ca­tion for Fed­er­al Stu­dent Aid (FAFSA). Both men have plead­ed guilty to two mis­de­meanor accounts for vio­lat­ing the Com­put­er Fraud and Abuse Act and face up to two years behind bars.

In 2016, when Trump was run­ning for office, he refused to release his tax returns as most pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates do. The tax returns have become a much-sought item for lib­er­al activists in the sub­se­quent years, and the sub­ject of intense report­ing by The New York Times and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions.

“this was two knuck­le­heads in col­lege”

Around this same time, Har­ris, then a stu­dent at Haver­ford Col­lege in Penn­syl­va­nia, real­ized he might be able to access the returns by fill­ing out a fake FAFSA appli­ca­tion for the can­di­date. The FAFSA appli­ca­tion uses tax infor­ma­tion to cal­cu­late stu­dent loans — it also allows peo­ple to import fil­ings direct­ly from the IRS so long as they have a social secu­ri­ty num­ber and oth­er per­son­al­ly iden­ti­fy­ing infor­ma­tion. Har­ris knew Trump’s social secu­ri­ty num­ber, as it had already leaked.

Har­ris then went to Hiem­stra and togeth­er they hatched a plan to get Trump’s tax returns and leak them to the media. On Novem­ber 2nd, 2016, they went to the com­put­er lab on cam­pus and tried to cre­ate a FAFSA account for a Trump fam­i­ly mem­ber. When they real­ized an account already exist­ed, they reset the pass­word by answer­ing secu­ri­ty ques­tions (read­er, they Googled it). Then, they tried to use Trump’s social secu­ri­ty num­ber to import his fed­er­al tax­es. They were not suc­cess­ful.

“This wasn’t Russ­ian hack­ing, this was two knuck­le­heads in col­lege,” Har­ris’ lawyer William J. Bren­nan told The Verge. “[Har­ris] wish­es no ill will towards the pres­i­dent and his fam­i­ly and he’s sor­ry for any incon­ve­niences he’s caused the Trump fam­i­ly.” When asked whether he agrees with the clas­si­fi­ca­tion that Har­ris was the “mas­ter­mind” behind this oper­a­tion, Bren­nan laughed. “That’s like being the tallest midget in the cir­cus.”

Har­ris’ sen­tenc­ing date is sched­uled for Decem­ber 16th. His lawyers plan to ask for a more lenient sen­tence as this is his first offense.

Pho­to by Michele Doy­ing / The Verge

Source link