In perhaps one of the biggest computer cracking stories of all time, UK citizen Gary McKinnon, 39, of Wood Green, north London has been released on bail by magistrates (but possibly faces extradition to the US) on charges of cracking into 53 US military and NASA computers in 2001 and 2002. The computer networks McKinnon is accused of illegally accessing include NASA, the US Army, US Navy, Department of Defence, the US Air Force and the holiest of holies... the Pentagon!
In a tale reminiscent of War Games or even the X-Files, McKinnon is accused of many computer crimes, including cracking into an army computer at Fort Myer, Virginia and then deleting around 1,300 user accounts. His motivation? To prove the existence of UFOs and to expose security failures.
The US estimates the costs of tracking and correcting the problems he allegedly caused were around $1m (£570,000).
If found guilty, McKinnon estimates he could face a maximum 70-year jail sentence if convicted in the US. His lawyer claims that he will fight his extradition on the grounds that he believes that he will not receive fair treatment from the judicial system there.
Now that we live in a post 9/11 world, it will be interesting (and perhaps horrifying) to see how cracking crimes of this magnitude are dealt with. In general, this kind of crime has been met with a poor level of justice, so things don’t look good for McKinnon at this stage.