Teen Given Six Months for Hacking Into NASA

A teenager who admitted hacking into NASA computers that support the international space station has been sentenced to six months in jail.

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

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

Known as “cOmrade”

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

“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 August and October 1999, “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, the young Florida hacker 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.

Nabbed for Illegal Entry

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.