The Justice Department claims a Swedish man ran one of the largest Internet hacking attacks, which compromised a wide variety of universities, companies, government facilities and international organizations -- but the man could end up beyond the reach of U.S. law.
A federal grand jury in San Jose, Calif., indicted Philip Gabriel Pettersson, aka "Stakkato," 21, late Tuesday.
U.S. authorities have interviewed Pettersson in the past, but it is unclear if he will ever face the charges filed against him in the United States. The U.S. has limited mutual legal agreements with Sweden, and he's unlikely to be extradited.
However, Pettersson already has been convicted and fined for other hacking attacks in Sweden, and American prosecutors in San Francisco say they're working with Swedish officials on the U.S. case, the Associated Press reported. Sweden can prosecute its citizens on behalf of other countries.
Tuesday's five-count U.S. indictment charges Pettersson with allegedly hacking into the systems of Cisco Systems Inc. and NASA, but officials said he's been behind large-scale hacking incidents worldwide, including hacks at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the White Sands Missile Range, MIT, Stanford and CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research.
Pettersson previously has denied involvement in the U.S. hacking attacks, the AP reported.
The U.S. indictment specifically alleges that on May 14, 2004, Pettersson hacked into Cisco's computer systems and compromised the company's software.
It also alleges that on May 19 and 20, 2004, Pettersson hacked into computers at the Ames Research Center and NASA's Advanced Supercomputing Division (NAS), located at Moffett Field in California.
Pettersson "did knowingly cause, and attempt to cause, the transmission of a program, information, code and command to the computer system and network of the NASA NAS Supercomputer and NASA Ames," the indictment said.
According to computer security experts, police interviewed Pettersson in March 2005 and later seized several of his computers.
The FBI has worked closely with Swedish authorities and others in Europe to try to determine if there are accomplices.