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Teen Gets 6 Months for Hacking NASA

September 22, 2000

MIAMI (AP) _ A teen-ager who broke into a Pentagon computer system that monitors threats from nuclear weapons was sentenced to six months in jail, becoming the first juvenile to be locked up for a hacking conviction.

In pleading guilty Thursday to federal charges, 16-year-old Jonathan James also admitted hacking into NASA computers that support the international space station, intercepting 3,300 government e-mail transmissions and getting stolen passwords.

His name was withheld by the government because of his age. However, his father, Robert James, released it.

Jonathan, known on the Internet as ``cOmrade,″ was 15 when the crimes occurred and is the first juvenile to be incarcerated for such crimes, the Justice Department said.

He will serve his sentence in a Florida detention center.

``Breaking into someone else’s property, whether it’s a robbery or a computer intrusion, is a serious crime,″ Attorney General Janet Reno said.

Meanwhile, in California a 20-year-old man was arrested and charged Thursday by federal authorities who said he also hacked into computers operated by NASA, as well as several universities, including Harvard, Stanford and Cornell.

Among the computer systems Jason Diekman of Mission Viejo, Calif., allegedly hacked into were those used by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

In the Florida case, ``c0mrade″ entered the computer network run by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, which monitors the threat from nuclear, biological, chemical, conventional and special weapons.

In a plea bargain, he admitted to entering 13 computers at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., for two days in June 1999 and downloading $1.7 million in NASA proprietary software that supports the space station’s environmental systems.

NASA said it cost $41,000 to check and repair the system during the three-week shutdown after the illegal entry was discovered.

Chris Rouland, who monitors computer attacks for Internet Security Systems Inc. in Atlanta, said the case was unusual in that the youngster was caught _ not that he managed to break into the computers.

Rouland said the case reflects growing technical sophistication among hackers: ``This is a great bellwether as to the state of security where juveniles can traipse across computer systems with little or no fear.″

Had the hacker been an adult, he could have been charged with wiretapping and computer abuse crimes. As part of his sentence, he must write letters apologizing to the secretary of defense and the administrator of NASA.


On the Net:

Internet Security Systems: http://www.iss.net

ICSA.net, an online security firm: http://www.icsa.net

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