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Hacker faces extradition over 'biggest military computer hack of all time'

June 08, 2005

 
British suspected of hacking into numerous US military and NASA computers faces an extradition fight following his arrest in London on Tuesday.

Gary McKinnon, of Wood Green, north London, allegedly hacked into networks run by NASA, the Pentagon and 12 other military installations over a 12 month period from February 2001 until March 2002. Private sector businesses were also affected by the alleged attacks.

A spokeswoman for Scotland Yard said McKinnon was arrested Tuesday evening by officers from the Metropolitan Police Service Extradition Unit.

According to court papers, McKinnon mounted an attack in February 2002 that shut down Internet access to 2,000 military computers in the Washington area for three days.

The indictment said he hacked into an Army computer at Fort Myer, Virginia, obtained administrator privileges and transmitted codes, information and commands before deleting about about 1,300 user accounts.

It alleged he also deleted critical system files on the computer, copied a file containing usernames and encrypted passwords for the computer and installed tools to gain unauthorized access to other machines.

Further allegations include that he modified Navy and Air Force computers and copied other files.

He was accused of hacking into a network of 300 computers at the Earle Naval Weapons Station in Colts Neck, New Jersey, and stealing 950 passwords.

Speaking at the time of the indictment in 2002, Paul McNulty, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said: "Mr. McKinnon is charged with the biggest military computer hack of all time."

Mathew Bevan, another British hacker arrested for breaches of security at Nasa and US Air Force sites, found himself similarly demonized by US lawyers as "the single biggest threat to world security since Adolf Hitler" back in 1994. The case against him eventually collapsed. Like McKinnon, he was also hunting for evidence about UFOs hidden on military installations.

Despite the seriousness of the attacks, US authorities are keen to stress no classified information was obtained through the year long assaults. Authorities reckon McKinnon acted alone and are not attributing his alleged crimes to any terrorist motive.

The US government claims it spent $1 million fixing the damage allegedly caused by McKinnon, who was indicted in November 2002 by a Federal Grand Jury in Alexandria, Virginia on seven counts of computer fraud and related activity. If extradited and found guilty, McKinnon faces on each count a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

McKinnon, who is contesting the extradition request, appeared at Bow Street Magistrate's Court in London on Wednesday.

District Judge Christopher Pratt granted McKinnon bail to reappear for an extradition hearing on July 27.

As conditions of his bail, he was ordered to provide 5,000 security, report to his local police station, not apply for any international travel documents and not use any computer equipment allowing him to access the Internet, the UK's Press Association reported.

 

 
   

 

 

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