The news: Gary McKinnon, the alleged NASA hacker, has failed in his last ditch appeal to the European Court of Human Rights to have his extradition to the United States quashed.
Here's the background: In 2002, McKinnon, also known as Solo, left this message on a computer belonging to the U.S. Army:
“US foreign policy is akin to government-sponsored terrorism these days... It was not a mistake that there was a huge security stand-down on September 11 ... I am SOLO. I will continue to disrupt at the highest levels.”
As a result of this action, and a few others, he was indicted in 2002 by a federal grand jury on seven counts of computer fraud and related activity, and faces on each count a maximum sentence of 10 years of prison and a $250,000 fine.
The indictment says that in one instance he obtained administrator privileges to a military computer, deleted approximately 1,300 user accounts, deleted critical system files, copied a file containing usernames and encrypted passwords for the computer; and installed tools for obtaining unauthorized access to networked peers. What’s more, he did the same thing to Army, Navy, Air Force and NASA computers from Groton, CT to Pearl Harbor.
Specifically, the indictment charged that McKinnon scanned a large number of computers in the .mil network and was able to obtain administrative privileges to many of them. Once he was able to access the computers, McKinnon installed a number of hacker tools (one of which was “Remotely/Anywhere”), copied password files, then deleted a number of user accounts and critical system files. Eventually, he was able to scan more than 73,000 computers.
At the Naval Weapons Station Earle, on one of the computers used for monitoring the identity, location, physical condition, staffing and battle readiness of Navy ships, he deleted files that rendered the base’s entire network of over 300 computers inoperable. This was at a critical time: immediately following September 11.
The indictment goes on to say that once inside a network, McKinnon would use the hacked computers to find additional military and NASA hosts. In one attack, McKinnon caused a network in the Washington D.C. area to shut down, resulting in the total loss of internet access and email service to approximately 2,000 users for three days. The estimated loss for all of this has been put at approximately $900,000.
OK, then. Let me get this straight. Using his home computer, McKinnon, through the internet, identified networked government computers and from those extracted the identities of certain administrative accounts and associated passwords. Having gained access to those accounts he installed Remotely/Anywhere, which enabled him to access and alter data at any time. Right...
It’s hard to feel too sorry for this guy, considering the nature of the charges against him. If he didn’t do this stuff, or if he can justify his actions in some way (he claims he was looking for UFO information), he should tell it to the judge.