Brit charged with hacking Pentagon, NASA

Military left Windows server wide open to attack


An unemployed British sysadmin was yesterday indicted for what US authorities describe as the "biggest hack of military computers ever detected".

Gary McKinnon, 36, of London, was charged in absentia with one count of causing intentional damage and seven counts of computer fraud relating to alleged attacks on scores of US government computers in a period spanning over a year.

From February 2001 until March 2002, McKinnon allegedly exploited poorly-secured Windows systems to attack 92 networks run by NASA, the Pentagon and 12 other military installation scattered over 14 states. Private sector businesses were also affected by the alleged attacks, which caused an estimated $900,000 in damage overall.

According to court papers filed in New Jersey and Virginia yesterday, McKinnon mounted an attack in attack in February this year that shut down Internet access to 2,000 military computers in the Washington area for three days.

Prosecutors told Reuters that McKinnon "stole passwords, deleted files, monitored traffic and shut down computer networks on military bases from Pearl Harbour to Connecticut". He is accused of scanning networks for vulnerabilities prior to using a software program called RemotelyAnywhere to snoop on network traffic and erase files.

"This is an incredibly sophisticated cyber criminal," Newark U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie told Reuters. "He was a very busy guy."

Despite the seriousness of the alleged attacks, US authorities are keen to stress no classified information was obtained through the year long assaults.

Authorities believe that McKinnon (whose handle is Solo) acted alone and are not attributing his alleged crimes to any terrorist motive.

US authorities are seeking to extradite McKinnon, who faces charges punishable by fines of up to $1.75 million in fines and 80 years in jail (each count in his indictment carries a maximum prison term of 10 years).

Reuters reports that McKinnon's lawyers in London yesterday issued a statement yesterday admitting that he was arrested in March for computer-related offences. His present whereabouts, and even if he is currently held in custody, remain unclear. ®


Other stories you might like

  • Will this be one of the world's first RISC-V laptops?
    A sneak peek at a notebook that could be revealed this year

    Pic As Apple and Qualcomm push for more Arm adoption in the notebook space, we have come across a photo of what could become one of the world's first laptops to use the open-source RISC-V instruction set architecture.

    In an interview with The Register, Calista Redmond, CEO of RISC-V International, signaled we will see a RISC-V laptop revealed sometime this year as the ISA's governing body works to garner more financial and development support from large companies.

    It turns out Philipp Tomsich, chair of RISC-V International's software committee, dangled a photo of what could likely be the laptop in question earlier this month in front of RISC-V Week attendees in Paris.

    Continue reading
  • Did ID.me hoodwink Americans with IRS facial-recognition tech, senators ask
    Biz tells us: Won't someone please think of the ... fraud we've stopped

    Democrat senators want the FTC to investigate "evidence of deceptive statements" made by ID.me regarding the facial-recognition technology it controversially built for Uncle Sam.

    ID.me made headlines this year when the IRS said US taxpayers would have to enroll in the startup's facial-recognition system to access their tax records in the future. After a public backlash, the IRS reconsidered its plans, and said taxpayers could choose non-biometric methods to verify their identity with the agency online.

    Just before the IRS controversy, ID.me said it uses one-to-one face comparisons. "Our one-to-one face match is comparable to taking a selfie to unlock a smartphone. ID.me does not use one-to-many facial recognition, which is more complex and problematic. Further, privacy is core to our mission and we do not sell the personal information of our users," it said in January.

    Continue reading
  • Meet Wizard Spider, the multimillion-dollar gang behind Conti, Ryuk malware
    Russia-linked crime-as-a-service crew is rich, professional – and investing in R&D

    Analysis Wizard Spider, the Russia-linked crew behind high-profile malware Conti, Ryuk and Trickbot, has grown over the past five years into a multimillion-dollar organization that has built a corporate-like operating model, a year-long study has found.

    In a technical report this week, the folks at Prodaft, which has been tracking the cybercrime gang since 2021, outlined its own findings on Wizard Spider, supplemented by info that leaked about the Conti operation in February after the crooks publicly sided with Russia during the illegal invasion of Ukraine.

    What Prodaft found was a gang sitting on assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars funneled from multiple sophisticated malware variants. Wizard Spider, we're told, runs as a business with a complex network of subgroups and teams that target specific types of software, and has associations with other well-known miscreants, including those behind REvil and Qbot (also known as Qakbot or Pinkslipbot).

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022