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Teen Up on Federal Hacking Charges

March 18, 1998

BOSTON (AP) _ A teen-ager accused of crippling an airport control tower has become the first juvenile charged in federal court with computer hacking.

The U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday that the Massachusetts boy, whose name, age and hometown were not disclosed, has agreed to plead guilty.

If a judge accepts the plea bargain, the boy will get two years’ probation, a fine and community service. He will also be banned from using a computer with a modem for two years.

``These are not pranks. This is not like throwing spitballs at your teacher,″ U.S. Attorney Donald Stern said. ``Hackers should know that they will be caught and they will be prosecuted.″

The boy broke into a Bell Atlantic computer system on March 10, 1997, causing a system crash that knocked out power at Worcester Airport. Communication between the tower and aircraft was disrupted for six hours.

No accidents or close calls resulted. The airport handled 60,000 landings and departures in 1997.

``We dodged a bullet that day,″ said Joseph Hogan, area manager for the air traffic control company.

The control tower printer, which monitors flight progress, shut down. Radios used to communicate with planes were also knocked out. A battery-operated backup transmitter came on, but the system had a shorter range.

The hacking also knocked out off phone service to 600 houses in nearby Rutland.

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