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Guilty plea in nuke lab hack

'Konceptor' cracked to battle depression

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A 22-year-old Minnesota man pleaded guilty Monday to hacking into an unclassified network at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, after reaching a last minute plea deal with federal prosecutors.

Benjamin Breuninger, known by the hacker handle "Konceptor," admitted to cracking the nuclear laboratory's network in November, 1999, and planting a backdoor that allowed him to reenter over the course of the next ten days. The hacker used his access to download budget materials.

As part of his plea, which came just a week before his scheduled January 14th trial date, Breuninger agreed that his intrusion cost the laboratory $20,000, for the time workers spent re-securing the network.

According to court records, Breuninger told agents investigating the intrusions that he cracked the lab's network to combat depression and suicidal tendencies.

Breuninger referred inquiries to his attorney Wednesday, who did not immediately return a phone call.

The hacker has been free on bail since his September, 2000 indictment. He faces a maximum statutory sentence of five years in prison, but under federal sentencing guidelines will likely receive much less. Sentencing is set for April 12th before Judge D. Lowell Jensen in Oakland, Calif.

Correction: This story has been modified to reflect that "Konceptor" did not speak at the Rootfest hacker convention as previously reported. SecurityFocus regrets the error.

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