'Pentagon hacker' prepares for verdict
Infosec Gary McKinnon, the British hacker who's due to hear whether he will be extradited to the US on 10 May, rates his chances of avoiding trial in the States as only "50/50".
McKinnon, 40, faces possible trial under US anti-terror laws over alleged attacks on military and NASA systems between 2001 and 2002.
The unemployed sys admin has had these charges over his head since first been arrested by officers from the UK's National High Tech Crime Unit in March 2002. The case against him lay dormant until July 2005 since when he's been unable to find work. Bail conditions mean he's unable to access the internet except in the course of employment and even then under tight conditions. He is, however, allowed to have a mobile phone.
Lawyers for McKinnon want him to be tried over his offences in the UK rather than the US. "I'm very worried. Whatever happens I'll have a fight on my hands for the next 18 months or so," he said. "If I'm sent to the US, I'd face trial in front of a secret military tribunal."
McKinnon admits he looked at computer systems without permission but claims he did no harm. He got involved in hacking after reading Disclosure by Stephen Greer and becoming convinced that the US had harvested advanced technology from UFOs and was keeping it secret to the detriment of the public. His hacking activities were a means to an end, uncovering evidence that the US had developed anti-gravity and zero point energy devices.
He was caught after US military agencies detected system intrusions which were traced back to the UK. UK authorities identified McKinnon as the attacker after obtaining records of British sales of a tool called RemotelyAnywhere to McKinnon and subsequent police work that made him a prime suspect in the case.
"The US authorities are using a hammer to squash a nut. I didn't do any damage. The Love Bug (an infamous computer virus) caused far more harm," he said.
McKinnon added that, as in the case of Mathew Bevan, the US authorities were "over reacting". Bevan (AKA Kuji) was accused of breaking into US military computer systems but escaped without punishment when a 1997 case at Woolwich Crown Court was dropped after a long-running legal battle. After the case Bevan became an ethical hacker and security consultant with Tiger Computer Security, and later on a freelance basis with his firm the Kuji Media Corporation.
McKinnon says he's not been approached by companies offering work. Many well-wishers have sent McKinnon messages of support, some of whom express an interest in hacking. McKinnon is keen to discourage others from following his path.
"Organised criminals are far more effective than script kiddies or those that hack for an intellectual challenge because they know the sentence they face," he said. McKinnon made his comments during an interview at the Infosec trade show in London on Thursday. ®
how he was caught
"He was caught after US military agencies detected system intrusions which were traced back to the UK"
According to Gary ..
"I'd instant message them, using WordPad, with a bit of a political diatribe. You know, I'd leave a message on their desktop that read 'Secret government is blah blah blah.' Gary McKinnon
And the alleged 'hacking` took the form of logging into Windows with no admin password as they were all installed from the same image.
First, Gary's been a bit stupid for poking around those systems, especially in today's climate. I'm pretty sure he knows this and I'm quite sure he's unlikely to repeat the offense.
I woudn't trust the US Justice system. Currently in the "War Against Terror" we've got a lot of ambitious prosecutors and law enforcement personel chasing a handful of potential defendants. In this climate anyone who falls into their clutches is potentially in big trouble regardless of the severity of their offense. Zacarias Moussaoui was peripherally connected to the 9/11 hijackers -- he was in jail at the time on an unrelated matter -- but they are going to execute him for the offense of not liking Americans and "lying to the FBI" (yes, its a real offense, that's what they got Martha Stewart on when they couldn't find solid evidence of criminal conduct). More realistically, the case in Lodi in Northern California is closer to what Gary's facing -- nothing or trivia will get parlayed into someone serving 39 years.
I doubt that Gary will end up in Cuba but he may end up in a maximum security jail, which to all intents and purposes will be the same thing.
I'd advise Gary to keep well clear of the US until saner times.
PS. I am a citizen.......yes we know what's going on, yes we can't do that much about it at the moment (but its not for a lack of trying).