Teen Given Six Months for Hacking Into NASA

ByCatherine Wilson

M I A M I, Sept. 22, 2000 -- A teenager who admitted hacking into NASAcomputers that support the international space station has beensentenced to six months in jail.

The teen, now 16, pleaded guilty Thursday to federal charges,and also admitted he had illegally entered a Pentagon computersystem, intercepted 3,300 e-mail transmissions and stolenpasswords.

The young man’s name was withheld because of his age. TheJustice Department said he was the first juvenile hacker to beincarcerated for computer crimes.

Known as “cOmrade”

The teen was known on the Internet as “cOmrade” and will servehis sentence in a Florida detention center. He was 15 when thecrimes occurred.

“Breaking into someone else’s property, whether it’s a robberyor a computer intrusion, is a serious crime,” Attorney GeneralJanet Reno said.

Meanwhile, in California a 20-year-old man was arrested andcharged Thursday by federal authorities who said he also hackedinto 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 NationalAeronautics and Space Administration’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory inPasadena.

In August and October 1999, “c0mrade” entered the computernetwork run by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, which monitorsthe threat from nuclear, biological, chemical, conventional andspecial weapons.

In a plea bargain, the young Florida hacker admitted to entering13 computers at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville,Ala., for two days in June 1999 and downloading $1.7 million inNASA proprietary software that supports the space station’senvironmental systems.

Nabbed for Illegal Entry

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

Chris Rouland, who monitors computer attacks for InternetSecurity Systems Inc. in Atlanta, said the case was unusual in thatthe youngster was caught — not that he managed to break into thecomputers.

Rouland said the case reflects growing technical sophisticationamong hackers: “This is a great bellwether as to the state ofsecurity where juveniles can traipse across computer systems withlittle or no fear.”

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

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events