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A computer security consultant who broke into US military networks to demonstrate their vulnerability to attack by cyber-terrorists or hostile governments was arrested in San Diego yesterday.

Brett Edward O'Keefe, 36, president of California start-up ForensicTec Solutions, faces charges of breaking into computers run by the Navy, the Army, the US Department of Energy, NASA and several private companies. He has been charged with six felony offences punishable by sentences of up to 30 years in prison, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Prior to his arrest, O'Keefe bragged to reporters that he cracked into military networks to demonstrate how insecure they were, despite government rhetoric about increased security precautions introduced since the devastating 9/11 terrorist attacks.

ForensicTec Solutions is trying to sell its security services to government, and O'Keefe used the alleged insecurities unearthed by his campaign to promote the company.

"All I wanted to do was to show America how weak our computer defences are," O'Keefe allegedly said. "My hope was that, if I embarrassed the government, they would tighten up their precautions."

O'Keefe claims his company stumbled across an easy way to break into military computers while working for a private client. ForensicTec workers allegedly downloaded military crypto programs from sensitive government computers, among other things.

Assistant US Attorney John Parmley told the LA Times that O'Keefe would have done better to pass on concerns about the insecurity of government computers without "hacking" into them.

"It's like going down the street and jiggling doors to see if they're open," Parmley said. "That's one thing. But if you go and start taking things, that's different."

O'Keefe is charged with conspiracy to gain unauthorised access to government, military and private sector computers and of seeking to profit from breaking into these networks. Two ForensicTec employees, Aljosa Medvesek and Margaret Ann Lauffer, have reportedly agreed to testify against O'Keefe. Each pleaded guilty to a single charge of unauthorized access to governmental computers last week.

O'Keefe is being held in custody pending arraignment in a US District Court later today (September 30). ®

External Link

Hacker Arrested in San Diego, by LA Times (registration required)

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