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Hacker Disrupted Military, U.S. Says

Prosecutors allege that British man shut down computer systems on several bases.

November 13, 2002|From Reuters

WASHINGTON — U.S. prosecutors charged a British man Tuesday with hacking into nearly 100 government and private sector computers, disrupting military operations and causing $900,000 in damage over the course of a year.

Prosecutors said Gary McKinnon, an unemployed computer programmer living in London, stole passwords, deleted files, monitored traffic and shut down computer networks on military bases from Pearl Harbor to Connecticut.

McKinnon also hacked into NASA, the University of Tennessee, a public library in Bethlehem, Pa., and several private businesses, according to charges filed in a federal court in Alexandria, Va.

Federal prosecutors filed separate charges against McKinnon in New Jersey as well.

Prosecutors said they would seek to extradite McKinnon, who is charged with seven counts of computer fraud. If found guilty, he could face up to $1.75 million in fines and 70 years in jail.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Alexandria said she did not know whether McKinnon was in custody.

McKinnon accessed 92 separate computer systems from March 2001 to March of this year, according to the charges.

After gaining entry, McKinnon would use a software program called RemotelyAnywhere to monitor network traffic and delete files.

McKinnon downloaded hundreds of user passwords, the charges say, and in several cases destroyed critical files that made the computers unable to function.

In one instance, he was able to knock roughly 2,000 military users in the Washington area offline for three days. A spokeswoman said McKinnon did not access any classified information. But national security had nonetheless been compromised, one security expert said.

"If you're able to impact critical systems that the military relies on, I would call this a serious attack," said George Kurtz, chief executive of Foundstone Inc., a computer security company in Mission Viejo.

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