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The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), long the trifling sport of painfully unskilled hackers, has now got a feather almost in its cap. Suburban New-Yorker Raymond Torricelli was arrested Wednesday on charges that he broke into two computer systems owned by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

The complaint also accused him of perverting NASA computers to send gobs of spam on behalf of a porno Web site, of intercepting passwords and user names on computers owned by Georgia Southern and San Jose State Universities, and of stealing credit card account details which were used to make approximately $10,000 worth of unauthorised purchases.

Torricelli moderated a hacker channel known as "#conflict", going by the alias "rolex", again using JPL's boxes, the complaint says.

One of the systems Torricelli compromised is used by JPL to perform satellite design and mission analysis. The other is used as an e-mail and Web-page server by the laboratory's communications department. Data recovered from Torricelli's own computer is said to provide the evidence against him.

Torricelli has also been accused of hacking into more than 800 other computers, prosecutors said. He has been released on $50,000 bail pending trial. ®

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