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Sentencing postponed in nuclear lab hack case

Hearing set for December 18

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The sentencing of a UK teenager who admits breaking into the network of a US high-energy physics research lab has been postponed until December 18.

Joseph McElroy, 19, from Woodford Green in East London, was due to be sentenced today at Bow Street Magistrates Court for hacking into the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in June last year. But pre-sentencing reports in the case weren't ready, so the case was postponed until next month.

McElroy pleaded guilty to hacking into 17 computers at the laboratory, offences under the UK's Computer Misuse Act, at a hearing at Bow St Magistrates Court last month.

The teenager's actions had serious consequences, even though his objective was only to use the lab's network to download films and music from the Net. The lab's computer systems had to be shut down for three days once the intrusion, which triggered a full-scale alert, was discovered. Even though it was quickly established that classified systems were not accessed, the authorities decided to press ahead with a prosecution.

US investigators tracked the intrusion to the UK, before passing the case over to Scotland Yard's Computer Crime Unit. They tracked McElroy to his home in east London.

McElroy, now a first year student at Exeter University, is free on bail pending sentencing. ®

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The US DoE's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois. The atom-smashing lab at the eye of the storm.

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