A 20-year-old hacker who pleaded guilty in November to tapping into high-security NASA computers was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of trying to transfer money through Western Union using stolen credit card numbers.
Jason Allen Diekman of Mission Viejo, who already faced up to 16 years in prison, tried three times in March to make the wire transfers, according to the affidavit filed in support of the case.
The first two times, he was denied by the credit company, said Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles. The third attempt was approved, he said, but Western Union identified Diekman's name as a security risk and stopped the transfer.
In the meantime, an unidentified national telecommunications company was conducting an unrelated internal investigation into theft when it overheard several individuals, including Diekman, discussing committing fraud against Western Union, Mrozek said.
The company contacted the FBI, which listened to the tapes of the conversation, investigated and arrested Diekman at his home, where he lives with his parents.
Diekman's father confirmed his son's arrest on Wednesday, but said, "I'm sorry he's not here right now and we're not talking."
Last year, using the nickname Shadow Knight, Diekman gained "root level" control over NASA computer systems at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena and over more than 24 computer systems at Stanford University, including two owned by NASA that contained flight control software for the agency's satellites. Root access gives an intruder the ability to create, delete or modify files and to alter security on a system.
Diekman did not disrupt any NASA operations, Assistant U.S. Atty. Arif Alikhan said. But he used the access to penetrate other government and university systems, federal prosecutors said.
According to a government affidavit, Diekman admitted to investigators that he had invaded "hundreds, maybe thousands" of computers in the last two years.
They allegedly included computer systems at UCLA, Harvard, Cornell, UC San Diego and Cal State Fullerton.
He was charged in September with hacking and using stolen credit card numbers to buy more than $6,000 worth of computer equipment, stereo speakers and clothing.
Diekman, who was free on bond on the earlier hacking case, appeared in court Wednesday and U.S. Magistrate Judge George P. Swartz ordered him held without bond. Arraignment in the Western Union case is set for May 7.
He is scheduled to be sentenced in the NASA case on May 14.