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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Apr > Apr 8

Deluded Geek Or Public Enemy No 1?

From: UFO UpDates - Toronto <ufoupdates.nul>
Date: Sun, 08 Apr 2007 11:21:42 -0400
Fwd Date: Sun, 08 Apr 2007 11:21:42 -0400
Subject: Deluded Geek Or Public Enemy No 1?

Source: The Scotsman - Edinburgh, Scotland, UK


Sun 8 Apr 2007

Scotland on Sunday

Deluded Geek Or Public Enemy No 1?
Richard Elias

The question posed by the film poster asked: "Is it a game or is
it real?"

The year was 1983 and the movie was WarGames and it told of a
bored high school student called David Lightman who
inadvertently uses his computer to gain access to the United
States' nuclear programme.

Once logged in, Lightman, played by Matthew Broderick, is asked
to take part in a game between the two world superpowers but it
soon becomes apparent he is triggering Armageddon.

Sitting in a north London cinema 24 years ago, a teenage boy
watched the movie, fascinated. It created in him a burning
desire to learn about cyberspace and to understand every aspect
of the then relatively-new phenomenon.

But today, Gary McKinnon probably wishes he had never paid his
entrance money for the movie.

He is awaiting extradition to the US, accused of being a cyber-
terrorist and the world's most notorious military computer
hacker. US officials claim he made more than 50 alterations to
top-secret computer programmes in 2001 to 2002 that cost them
$1m to correct.

If convicted the softly-spoken Glaswegian, whose online name was
"Solo", faces spending the rest of his life in a maximum-
security jail as well as being hit with a $1.75m fine.

The most-likely destination is a cell in Red Onion State
Penitentiary in south-west Virginia. Located in the town of
Pound - population 1,089 and a place where they recently banned
dancing because it "entices sin" - the jail is one of two
'Supermax' prisons in the state and has infuriated human rights
campaigners with its ultra-harsh regime. According to a recent
report, it "restricts inmate movement and activity to a far
greater degree than other maximum security jails".

One ex-inmate recalled: "Upon arrival, I was told that I was at
Red Onion now and if you acted up, they would kill me and there
was nothing anyone could or would do about it."

Although 14 individual states have claimed McKinnon hacked into
their computers, the state of Virginia has taken the lead in the

Paul J McNulty, the US Attorney for the eastern district of
Virginia, issued the indictment against McKinnon on November 12,
2002, stating he had "accessed and damaged without authorisation
computers belonging to the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Department
of Defence and Nasa, and six computers belonging to a number of
private businesses."

Just days later he was arrested on behalf of the Americans at
the flat in north London which he shared with his then
girlfriend. The fight against extradition, with McKinnon free on
bail, has been ongoing ever since.

He is accused by the Americans of hacking into more than 90 top-
secret military and Nasa sites, offences which he has constantly

But last Tuesday, his campaign to stay in Britain was dealt a
severe blow when the High Court in London ruled he could be sent
across the Atlantic for trial. Lord Justice Maurice and Mr
Justice Goldring stated they could not find any legal grounds to
refuse the extradition application but added, however, that they
had a "degree of distaste" for the way the American authorities
had handled the situation.

McKinnon's legal team is now preparing a final appeal through
the House of Lords to prevent their client from being extradited
but the immediate future looks bleak for the 41-year-old.

The Scot has never denied accessing the military computer sites
from his London flat but his defence is he was looking for
evidence of UFO activity which, according to him, the Pentagon
had deliberately suppressed.

He said: "I wanted to find out stuff the government would not
tell us about."

This interest in UFOs goes back even further than his trip to
the cinema 24 years ago.

McKinnon spent the first six years of his life in Glasgow but
his parents split up and he moved with his mother and stepfather
to London.

It was his stepfather who was to open the youngster's mind to
stories of spacecraft and alien beings. He had been raised in
Bonnybridge, near Falkirk, a spot which UFO aficionados from
around the world claim is an alien spacecraft hotspot.

McKinnon became hooked on science fiction and, by the age of 14,
armed with the computer his parents had bought him, he began to

The catalyst for his later successful attempts to hack into some
of the world's most secretive programmes was, he says, WarGames,
prompting him to spend more and more time sat alone, smoking
cannabis, trying to emulate what Broderick had done on the
silver screen.

McKinnon has always denied being a hacker - despite admitting
voraciously digesting the Hacker's Handbook, a notorious self-
help guide to exploring the limits of cyberspace, as a teenager.
He prefers to describe himself simply as a "computer nerd".

His defence is that many of the sites he visited, despite
holding top-secret government documents, had little, or in some
cases, no, security systems in place.

But one of the major problems facing McKinnon and his defence
team is the timing of his hunt. When he was scouring
confidential sites, America was reeling from the immediate
aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Following his arrest, McKinnon made another serious error.
Offered a deal which would have brought him a relatively light
four-year jail sentence in the US, he turned it down because of
concerns about how the trial would be conducted.

McKinnon threatened to go public with what he had learned. But
by his own admission he had collected little information of
value and says he was "stoned" most of the time he was online.

Infuriated, the US Justice Department appeared to decide to make
an example of the man they dubbed the "worst military hacker of
all time".

All McKinnon can do now is hope that the House of Lords rules in
his favour. Otherwise, he will be handed over to US Marshals,
handcuffed and shackled, dressed in an orange jumpsuit and put
on a plane heading across the Atlantic.

By fighting extradition here, his chances of getting bail in the
US are virtually nonexistent.

McKinnon admits to being "terrified" at the thought of going to
jail but he realises his fate is out of his hands. "I won't
stand a chance in hell if I am extradited," he said. "It'll be
Gary down a black hole and you won't see him again."

How he must have wished he had followed the advice given by the
computer to Broderick at the end of WarGames. It told the
fictional hacker: "The only winning move is not to play."

Hacked off

US student Robert Morris became one of the world's first hackers
in 1988. Just five years after the launch of the internet, he
set off a computer worm virus that spread to 6,000 networks.

Kevin Poulsen, Ronald Austin and Justin Peterson rigged a Los
Angeles radio phone-in to ensure only their calls got through.
In 1993, they won two Porsches, $20,000 in cash and holidays in

In 2000, the ILOVEYOU virus was sent via e-mail attachment. It
deleted programs and damaged 10% of UK businesses. Just months
later Microsoft admitted its corporate network had been hacked
and its source code for future Windows products had been seen.

Raphael Gray, 19, from Wales, sparked a global investigation by
accessing the details of 23,000 internet shoppers in five
countries and posting some on websites in 2001.

Listen to 'Strange Days... Indeed' - The PodCast



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