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05:29 AM
Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
Security Insights

71% Say Extradition Of UFO Hacker Gary McKinnon Is Wrong

Self-confessed hacker Gary McKinnon has lost a judicial review in London that he hoped would have lead to a British investigation into his case, rather than extradition to the United States.

Self-confessed hacker Gary McKinnon has lost a judicial review in London that he hoped would have lead to a British investigation into his case, rather than extradition to the United States.However, a Sophos poll of 550 IT professionals has revealed that seven out of 10 respondents believe NASA hacker Gary McKinnon should not be extradited to the U.S., despite the high court's contradictory verdict earlier today. The London-based hacker applied for judicial review following a previous decision by the British authorities that refused to bring charges against McKinnon in the U.K.

If McKinnon had been tried and and punished in Great Britain, then it is unlikely he would also be extradited to the U.S.

Despite a relentless media campaign and several extradition appeals in the House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights, today's decision by Lord Justice Stanley Burnton and Mr. Justice Wilkie could leave McKinnon facing up to 60 years imprisonment in a "supermax" facility. The latest survey shows a surge in public support for the self-confessed hacker. In fact, McKinnon has had tremendous support from hackers and ordinary people throughout this saga -- but what is truly staggering is the support he has received from the IT community.

McKinnon was arrested in the months following 9/11, after allegedly hacking into computers belonging to the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, Department of Defense, and NASA. The computer enthusiast from North London claims he broke into the computer systems to hunt for top secret information only about antigravity propulsion systems and alien technology, which he believed the authorities were hiding from the public.

U.S. authorities, meanwhile, allege that McKinnon -- known by the handle "Solo' -- caused nearly $1 million worth of damage, shutting down systems responsible for tracking the location of naval ships, and protecting Washington, D.C.

The consensus is that it is perhaps inappropriate to make an example of a UFO conspiracy theory nut with Asperger's Syndrome when serious crimes are still being carried out by financially motivated hackers, who are stealing identities, sending spam, and creating botnets. Of course, a strong message must be sent out to hackers that their activities are unacceptable, but there is an arguable difference between McKinnon and cybercriminals who are in it for the money.

What do you think?

Graham Cluley is senior technology consultant at Sophos, and has been working in the computer security field since the early 1990s. When he's not updating his other blog on the Sophos website, you can find him on Twitter at @gcluley. Special to Dark Reading.

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User Rank: Ninja
6/20/2014 | 1:39:20 PM
Re: UFO Hacking
We definitely need to get more equitable laws for cyber crimes on the books, and in the process educate the legal system.  In time...

I'd be curious to see if Gary has returned to "normal" after this experience, and what he's working on other than his little company.  And, if he's kept up with the UFO chasing.  I suspect there's a great mind in that head :-)
User Rank: Ninja
6/20/2014 | 7:51:03 AM
Re: UFO Hacking
I also am also fascinated with UFOs as I live in a very high activity area. The law certainly makes a point of setting an example. All Gary McKinnon did was exploit null sessions using RemoteAnywhere to gain access to the unprototected systems. I think the estimated damage accused is a lot higher than what was actually done.

The infamous Kevin Mitnick served about 9 months in solitary confinement because the court was convinced he could pick up a phone a whistle a tone to launch a missile strike.



User Rank: Ninja
6/20/2014 | 12:13:04 AM
UFO Hacking
I stumbled upon this while researching a recent UFO sighting.  A side of me not everyone is aware of is my fascination with UFOs and the search for extraterrestrial life.  Honestly, while I appreciate the inspiration that drove Gary to do what he did, his talents would better have been served contributing to projects like [email protected] or any number of excellent software projects out there aiding in serious research.  He could have aided groups like MUFON (on the other end of the spectrum) legally research past UFO sightings and cover-ups.

It's a good lesson.  His long battle was unnecessary and sad, but also a deterrent to others who have non-criminal intent, but whose curiosity drives them to commit a crime as a result of it.  From my perspective, I can't believe it didn't take a matter of six months to identify Gary as not a threat, or a potential repeat offender, and simply have let him off on parole.  Such a sad incident and an example of how we are nowhere near where we need to be in terms of educating the government and the public regarding this cyber world we live in, and how far the government is from writing laws and punishment that fit the cyber crime.
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