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Teen Charged With Computer Hacking

March 19, 1998

BOSTON (AP) _ Sending a warning to young computer hackers, federal prosecutors charged a teen-age boy with shutting down an airport communications system.

The U.S. Department of Justice said Wednesday the Massachusetts boy, whose name was not released, has agreed to plead guilty and faces two years probation, a fine and community service.

The teen is the first juvenile charged in federal court with computer hacking, officials said.

The boy broke into a Bell Atlantic computer system on March 10, 1997, stalling communication between the control tower and aircraft at Worcester Airport for six hours, authorities said. No accidents occurred.

``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 teen-ager was charged with juvenile delinquency, the umbrella charge that relates to all crimes committed by juveniles. In adult cases, the charge is called intentionally accessing protected computers.

``We dodged a bullet that day,″ said Joseph Hogan, area manager for Robinson van Vuren, a company contracted by the Federal Aviation Administration to operate air traffic control towers in New England.

When the teen-ager used his computer to break into the phone company computers, the system crashed, power was lost at the control tower and phone service was shut off to 600 houses in Rutland, a central Massachusetts community outside of Worcester.

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