Teen first to serve hacking time

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Thursday the first instance of a convicted juvenile hacker having to serve time for acts of juvenile delinquency. The 16-year-old Miami, Florida resident pleaded guilty to hacking crimes and is to serve six months in a detention facility for his offenses.

Going by the name “cOmrade” on the Internet, in a U.S. District Court in Miami the young man owned up to a number of computer intrusions dating from Aug. 23, 1999 to Oct. 27, 1999. He made his way into a military computer network used by the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). “cOmrade” also managed to gain unauthorized access to a server located in Dulles, Virginia, and installed backdoor access to the server, according to a DOJ statement.

The backdoor program collected over 3,300 messages distributed by DTRA staff. In addition, the hacker found a way to discover at least 19 user names and passwords of the computer accounts of DTRA employees – 10 of which resided on military computers, the DOJ said.

The Miami hacker, whose real-world identity was not released, also accessed 13 NASA computers located at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. He retrieved and downloaded proprietary software from NASA worth around US$1.7 million. NASA uses the software to support the International Space Station’s physical environment. Computer systems at NASA were forcibly put out of business for 21 days in July of 1999 to deal with the security breaches.

“Breaking into someone else’s property, whether it is a robbery or a computer intrusion, is a serious crime,” U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno said in the statement. “This case, which marks the first time a juvenile hacker will serve time in a detention facility, shows that we take computer intrusion seriously and are working with our law enforcement partners to aggressively fight this problem.”

The hacker will also write letters of apology to the U.S. Department of Defense and NASA as part of his punishment. He agreed to the public disclosure of all information surrounding the case.

The DOJ, based in Washington, D.C., can be reached via the Internet at http://www.usdoj.gov/.