Holiday in Guantanamo

Hapless hacker Gary McKinnon has just been given a two-week reprieve from being extradited to the US, where he faces charges of perpetrating the so-called 'biggest hack in military history'

Tags: Cyber crimePolitics
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By  Mark Sutton Published  August 12, 2008

Hapless hacker Gary McKinnon has just been given a two-week reprieve from being extradited to the US, where he faces charges of perpetrating the so-called 'biggest hack in military history'.

McKinnon is the British network-admin-cum-UFO-fan who managed to penetrate a whole bunch of US military networks, and, if the US prosecutors are to be believed, disabled at least two military bases. To the US authorities, he's up there with Al Qaeda, King Kong and expensive petrol as the most serious threats to the US of A.

McKinnon's version of the story is that he was looking for evidence that UFOs exist, and that he never deleted any files or intentionally did any damage. The fact that he ended up leaving anti-war messages on some of the compromised systems seems to contradict this, and certainly won't help his case any more.

Now the US has got the OK from the British government, and McKinnon is facing up 60 years if he's found guilty. It's hard not to feel sorry for McKinnon, who says he used just simple exploits to gain access to the networks - nothing more sinister than the equivalent of finding the gates to a military base unguarded and just wandering in to have a look around. Of course, if you got caught wandering around a US military base, just after 9-11, then you could count yourself lucky to just get 60 years in an orange jumpsuit...

But McKinnon doesn't seem to be malicious, or an enemy of freedom or any of the other things he's been painted as by US prosecutors. If security around these systems had been anything like what it should have been, Mckinnon would not have been able to get in. If he really wanted to damage systems, it sounds like he could really have made a mess of these unprotected systems.

As it goes, unless the European courts decide that he won't face a fair trial in the US (duh..) and decide that he can't be sent to the US, then it looks like he's going to get the blame for shoddy security that left the US military networks exposed just when they should have been at their most tightly controlled.

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