Science, Tech & Environment

Former Harvard fellow arrested for hacking

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Aaron Swartz faces prison for hacking into and downloading academic journal articles from MIT. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Over the past month, British and American law enforcement agencies have made about two dozen arrests connected to computer hacking.

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A British teen was arrested for allegedly taking part in Lulzsec, a group accused of hacking into Sony Playstation user accounts and the CIA.

Also caught up in the recent crackdown: 24-year-old Aaron Swartz.

The former Harvard fellow is accused of hacking into and downloading four million academic journal articles from JSTOR, a subscription service that costs universities up to $50,000 a year. Swartz now faces the possibility of 35 years in prison and $1 million in fines.

Nicco Mele, a supporter of Swartz and lecturer at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, told Here & Now's Robin Young that Swartz is being unfairly targeted.

Mele says it's unclear that Swartz stole anything, since he accessed the articles through MIT's subscription service: "I definitely feel like putting him in prison for 35 years for downloading academic documents from MIT, that has an open campus policy, seems radically out of proportion to what's actually happened here."

"I'd much rather they go after people who break real laws, who steal credit card numbers, or money or identities online," Mele added.

US Attorney Carmen Ortize's reponse: "Stealing is stealing."

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