NASA Hacker to Touch Down in U.S. Court Soon

By Matthew Hines  |  Posted 2008-07-30 Print this article Print

Gary McKinnon, one of the most notorious and curious hackers brought out of the shadows over the last several years, has lost his appeal and will be extradited from his hometown of London to the U.S. to face charges for allegedly breaking into computer systems belonging to NASA and the American military.

McKinnon, 42, an unemployed IT worker, claims that he breached the involved networks in search of secret information regarding UFOs.

According to the charges pending against him in the U.S., the hacker remotely infiltrated 97 different computers owned by NASA, the Department of Defense, Army, Navy and Air Force in search of otherworldly information.

In the course of his research, which took place between 2001 and 2002, McKinnon also allegedly took computing operations offline at several important military installations, including via some attacks carried out shortly after September 11, 2001.

McKinnon defended his activities by claiming he was merely trying to liberate info on aliens that the U.S. government was hiding from the public and has mounted a public campaign to fight his extradition over the last year.

In several blog posts on the situation, and today's decision by the U.K. House of Lords to extradite the hacker, Sophos security researcher Graham Cluley pointed out that the McKinnon attacks did shed a necessary light on the fact that the U.S. government was falling woefully short of protecting its computing systems from attacks before the UFO-chaser got busted.

However, unlike respondents to a poll Cluley posted on whether or not McKinnon should be extradited, 52 percent of whom said he should not be sent to the U.S. to face charges, the expert appears to agree that the hacker must face the music for his actions.

"Hacking into U.S. government networks is bound to come with harsh repercussions - anyone thinking about engaging in these types of activities in the future should think twice," Cluley said.

Matt Hines has been following the IT industry for over a decade as a reporter and blogger, and has been specifically focused on the security space since 2003, including a previous stint writing for eWeek and contributing to the Security Watch blog. Hines is currently employed as marketing communications manager at Core Security Technologies, a Boston-based maker of security testing software. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of Core Security, and neither the company, nor its products and services will be actively discussed in the blog. Please send news, research or tips to |

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