Former Top Reddit Programmer Charged with Hacking MIT’s Computers

Aaron Swartz faces 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine for stealing over 4,000 documents

Former Reddit programming guru Aaron Swartz has been charged with hacking the archive system at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and stealing over 4 million documents. 

Swartz allegedly broke into a wiring closet to access MIT’s network and download works from JSTOR, a digital archive of academic works. 

“Stealing is stealing, whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data, or dollars,” U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said in a statement. “It is equally harmful to the victim whether you sell what you have stolen or give it away.”

The 24-year programmer was charged in an indictment with wire fraud, computer fraud, unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer, and recklessly damaging a protected computer. If convicted, he faces up to 35 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.

Swartz appeared in U.S. District Court in Boston on Tuesday, where he was released on a $100,000 unsecured bond. He is scheduled to reappear in court on September 8 for a status hearing. 

Swartz was one of the top programmers behind the social news website reddit in 2005. He was fired from the company after it was sold to Wired in 2006. 

He is the founder of the non-profit political action group Demand Progress and was formerly a fellow at Harvard University's Center for Ethics. 

Andrew Good, an attorney for Swartz, was not available for comment.