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A US man has been jailed for six months for a 2001 attack on the web systems of space agency NASA which cost $200,000 to fix.

Gregory Aaron Herns, 21, from Portland, Oregon, hacked into the network at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center to store movies he had downloaded. The intrusion caused systems to crash and took technicians hours to fix, according to reports. In court last Friday, Herns admitted his guilt and apologised for the inconvenience he caused.

"These actions took place years ago and are behind me. I've moved on since," he told US District Judge Anna Brown, AP reports. Herns, a computer science student at Mt. Hood Community College, was ordered to pay compensation. Judge Brown also imposed an order restricting his use of computers for three years.

Breaking into high-speed networks to make it easier to share illicit content online is a fairly common trick among members of the computer underground. A UK teenager who admitted breaking into the network of Fermilab, a US high-energy physics research lab, narrowly escaped imprisonment. Joseph McElroy, 18, from Woodford Green in East London, was sentenced to 200 hours community service at a hearing at Southwark Crown Court in February 2004.

McElroy escaped a fine, on the grounds that he had no means to pay. ®

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