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Solar Sunrise hacker ‘Analyzer’ escapes jail

Community service for terrifying US Army

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The hacker known as 'The Analyzer' was sentenced Thursday in Israel to six months of community service for a series of intrusions into US Defense Department computers that triggered America's first full-blown infowar false alarm.

Ehud Tenenbaum, 22, also received one year of probation and a two-year suspended prison sentence that can be enforced if he commits another computer crime within three years. Additionally, the hacker was fined about $18,000.

Prosecutors had requested jail time. Tenenbaum, now CTO at computer security consultancy 2XS, could not be reached for comment, but in an interview last January said he was hoping for probation.

Thursday's sentencing puts a banal capstone on a case that once commanded headlines.

In February, 1998, dozens of unclassified Pentagon systems were suffering what then-US Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre insisted was "the most organized and systematic attack to date" on US military systems.

The attacks exploited a well-known vulnerability in the Solaris operating system for which a patch had been available for months, but they came at a time of heightened tension in the Persian Gulf. Hamre and other officials became convinced they were witnessing a sophisticated Iraqi 'information warfare' attacked aimed at disrupting troop deployment in the Middle East.

A joint task force was hastily assembled from agents of the FBI, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, NASA, the US Department of Justice, the Defense Information Systems Agency, the NSA, and the CIA. The investigation, code-named "Solar Sunrise," eventually snared two California teenagers and Tenenbaum, but no Iraqi infowarriors.

The California teens received probation for their role in the drama. After a brief stint in the military, Tenenbaum was indicted under Israeli computer crime law in February 1999. In a plea agreement reached in December of last year, he admitted to cracking US and Israeli computers, and plead guilty to conspiracy, wrongful infiltration of computerized material, disruption of computer use and destroying evidence.

Tenenbaum's sentence will have him working full time for six months of unpaid community service, such as in a hospital or a school, beginning in July.

Boaz Guttman, the former lead Israeli investigator in the case, says the hacker got off easy. "He caused huge damage in the US, and tomorrow this criminal will be in the local papers as a hero," says Guttman, now a computer law professor at Ruppin Academic Center. "In the United States, they say we are a state of hackers."

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