15-Year-Old Admits Hacking NASA Computers

ByABC News
September 21, 2000, 6:23 PM

M I A M I, Sept. 22 -- A 15-year-old computer hacker caused a 21-dayshutdown of NASA computers that support the international spacestation, and invaded a Pentagon weapons computer system to intercept3,300 e-mails, steal passwords and cruise around like an employee.

The boy, known on the Internet as c0mrade, pleaded guilty today tojuvenile delinquency in a sealed federal case.

Six Months in Jail

He became the first young hacker to be incarcerated for computer crimes, theJustice Department in Washington said in a summary.

He will servesix months in a state detention facility.

Breaking into someone elses property, whether its a robberyor a computer intrusion, is a serious crime, said AttorneyGeneral Janet Reno. The prosecution shows that we take computerintrusion seriously and are working with our law enforcementagencies to aggressively fight this problem.

Chris Rouland, who monitors computer attacks for InternetSecurity Systems Inc. in Atlanta, said the unusual part of the casewas that the boy was caught, not that he got where he did.

The boys identity was withheld because hes a juvenile.

Stole Software, E-Mails

Now 16, he admitted accessing 13 computers at the Marshall Space FlightCenter in Huntsville, Ala., for two days in June 1999 anddownloading $1.7 million worth of NASA proprietary software thatsupports the space stations environment, including temperature andhumidity.

NASA responded by shutting down the computers for 21 days todetermine the extent of the attack at a cost of $41,000 incontractor labor and replaced equipment.

In August and October 1999, c0mrade entered the computer networkrun by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, whose mission is toreduce the threat from nuclear, biological, chemical, conventionaland special weapons to the United States.

By entering through a router in Dulles, Va., and installing aback door for access, he intercepted DTRA e-mail, 19 user names andpasswords of employees, including 10 on military computers.