Hacker accused of crippling US military computers


13 November 2002 Federal prosecutors in the US have accused a London-based hacker of breaking into American military and space agency computers, causing damage amounting to nearly $1 billion (€995m).

US authorities have indicted the hacker on eight counts of computer fraud, including breaking into 92 computer networks operated by the US military and North American Space Agency (NASA), and attacking the IT systems of six private companies. The incidents took place between March 2001 and March 2002.

The US Department of Justice will try to extradite Gary McKinnon, a 36 year-old unemployed computer programmer, who lives in Hornsey, North London.

As part of one of the largest set of attacks ever reported, McKinnon allegedly deleted files, stole passwords, and tracked network traffic on military systems from Pearl Harbour in Hawaii to New Jersey on the East Coast.

At the Earle Naval Weapons Station facility in New Jersey, shortly after the 11 September terrorist atrocities, McKinnon hacked into a network of 300 computers, causing administrators to shut the system down for a week, US officials said. McKinnon is accused of stealing 950 passwords from the Navy facility.

US attorney Christopher Christie said McKinnon’s actions were a “grave intrusion into a vital military computer system at a time when we, as a nation, had to summon all of our defences against further attack”.

If found guilty, McKinnon will face a maximum penalty of five years in a federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000 (€247,700).

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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