UK Hacker Loses Extradition Case

    July 30, 2008

A British man accused of hacking into the computer systems of the U.S. military and NASA lost his appeal today against extradition to the U.S. where he will stand trial.

Gary McKinnon, 42, attempted to appeal his transfer to the U.S. to be tried for what has been called "the biggest military hack of all time" by taking his case to Britain’s highest court, the House of Lords.

Gary McKinnon

The House of Lords ruled the seriousness of the charges would carry a maximum life sentence under English law and denied his appeal. If convicted in the U.S., McKinnon could face up to 70 years in prison and fines of up to $1.75 million.

McKinnon’s lawyers said in a statement that his case was not handled properly by prosecuting authorities. "We believe that the British government declined to prosecute him to enable the US government to make an example of him. American officials involved in this case have stated they want to see him ‘fry’."

McKinnon was never charged in Britain, although he did admit he hacked into military computer systems in the U.S. In 2001 and 2002 he hacked into 97 computers and claimed he was searching for evidence that aliens existed.

McKinnon allegedly caused the entire U.S. Army’s Military District of Washington network of more than 2,000 computers to be shut down for 24 hours.

Using a 56k dial-up modem and the hacking name "Solo" McKinnon was able to get around a security flaw in Microsoft Widows to gain access to the computers.  The U.S. authorities allege he stole 950 passwords and deleted files of the Earle Naval Weapons Station in New Jersey.

He is also charged with hacking into 53 Army computers, 26 Navy computers, 16 NASA computers and one U.S. Defense Department machine.

When he was indicted, Paul McNulty, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said "Mr. McKinnon is charged with the biggest military computer hack of all time."