British hacker faces US extradition

A British man accused of causing hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage to US military computer systems has been granted bail prior to extradition hearings.

Gary McKinnon, 39, an unemployed computer systems administrator from Wood Green in North London was arrested on Tuesday. He appeared in court yesterday following a request by the American authorities that he should be extradited to the United States to face charges of hacking into Pentagon computers.

McKinnon has been indicted by a federal grand jury of eight charges of computer related crime including unlawful entry and criminal damage in 14 different States in the USA over a 12-month period.

US prosecutors have said that McKinnon carried out the ‘biggest military computer hack of all time’. He is alleged to have hacked into a computer system based at Fort Myer, Virginia and granted himself administrator privileges to gain access to codes, information and commands. The indictment further alleges that he subsequently went on a hacking spree, deleting 1300 user accounts and deleted critical files. He is also said to have obtained user accounts and passwords and installed software to gain access to other military computers.

Although the US authorities admit that McKinnon’s activities were for personal satisfaction only and that he did not intend to pass on any information gained to a foreign power or a terrorist organisation, the embarrassment to the armed forces of the world’s only superpower is enormous.

If he is found guilty in a US court, he faces up to $1.75 million in fines and 70 years in jail. However, his lawyers have vowed to fight any extradition. They argue that in the current climate he is unlikely to receive a fair trial in the United States. His legal team insists that if McKinnon is to face any charges they should be in the UK.

The extradition hearing is scheduled to take place on the 27th July.

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