Gary McKinnon indicted for breaking into US government computers
46-year-old Gary McKinnon of the UK is accused of hacking into 97 United States military and space agency computers over a 13-month period from February 2011 through March 2002 during which he deleted operating system files (which caused the hacked computers to crash) and copied account data, and files, to his computer. In November 2002, he was indicted by a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia on seven counts of computer-related crimes. His indictment read:
“Paul J. McNulty, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, announced that Gary McKinnon, of London, England, was indicted in Alexandria today by a federal grand jury on seven counts of computer fraud and related activity. McKinnon faces on each count a maximum sentence of 10 years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. The United States intends to formally request that the United Kingdom extradite McKinnon. According to the indictment, between March of 2001 and March of 2002, Gary McKinnon accessed and damaged without authorization 92 computers belonging to the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Department of Defense and NASA, and 6 computers belonging to a number of private businesses. One count charges McKinnon with accessing and damaging without authorization a computer used by the military for national defense and security. Other computers hacked by McKinnon include computers located at military bases throughout the United States and the Pentagon. The indictment alleges that Gary McKinnon scanned a large number of computers in the .mil network, was able to access the computers and obtained administrative privileges. Once he was able to access the computers, McKinnon installed a remote administration tool, a number of hacker tools, copied password files and other files, deleted a number of user accounts and deleted critical system files. Once inside a network, McKinnon would then use the hacked computer to find additional military and NASA victims. Ultimately, McKinnon caused a network in the Washington D.C. area to shutdown, resulting in the total loss of Internet access and e-mail service to approximately 2000 users for three days. The estimated loss to the various military organizations, NASA and the private businesses is approximately $900,000. The case was indicted as the result of a 17 month investigation by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s Computer Crime Investigative Unit (CCIU), NASA Office of the Inspector General, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, 902nd Military Intelligence Group-Information Warfare Branch, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the United Kindom’s National High Tech Crime Unit. Also assisting in the investigation were the U.S. Army Computer Emergency Response Team located at Fort Belvoir, Va., the Army Regional Computer Emergency Response Team at Fort Huachuca, the Naval Computer Incident Response Team, and the Department of Defense Computer Emergency Response Team. The case will be prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia and the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section for the Department of Justice.”
The battle for McKinnon’s extradition
B y 2009, many had voiced their support of McKinnon including Sting, Trudie Styler, Julie Christie, David Gilmour, Graham Nash, Peter Gabriel, The Proclaimers, Bob Geldof, Chrissie Hynde, David Cameron, Boris Johnson (Mayor of London), Stephen Fry, Jonathan Ross, Terry Waite, Tony Benn, Chris Huhne, Lord Carlile, the Conservative Party, the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party of England and Wales, the National Autistic Society, Liberty, and many others. On October 16, 2012, his extradition to the United States was blocked by the Home Secretary who said “extradition would give rise to such a high risk of him ending his life that a decision to extradite would be incompatible with Mr. McKinnon’s human rights.”
The overwhelming support is partially due to what McKinnon found after his penetration of the United States military networks. After gaining access to government computer systems, McKinnon claims to have found a 400-page document (The Disclosure Project) containing 400 testimonials from credible government witnesses talking about reverse engineering alien technology that was taken from captured or destroyed alien craft.
In addition, McKinnon confirmed that a NASA photographic expert, who said that there was a Building 8 at Johnson Space Center where they regularly airbrushed out images of UFOs from the high-resolution satellite imaging, was correct in his claims. McKinnon claims to have accessed NASA files finding huge, high-resolution satellite images, both filtered and unfiltered, of Building 8 that showed alien craft on the space center’s runways. He explained to Wired Magazine:
“It was a silvery, cigar-shaped object with geodesic spheres on either side. There were no visible seams or riveting. There was no reference to the size of the object and the picture was taken presumably by a satellite looking down on it. The object didn’t look manmade or anything like what we have created.”
McKinnon also says that he found an Excel spreadsheet titled “Non-Terrestrial Officers” which contained names and ranks of alien personnel who were not registered in any other military computer systems. He notes that the spreadsheet tracked fleet-to-fleet transfers to ships that after further research, turned out to be non-existent, leading McKinnon to the conclusion that the craft in question were alien.
Gary McKinnon emerges from the shadows
The case remained dormant for many years. Finally, in 2022, McKinnon emerged from the shadows and posted the following on Reddit:
Hi, I’m Gary McKinnon, I’ll make this brief but there are some things i feel it’s important to point out, so you know where I’m coming from. Apologies for not doing a live video response, i have a couple of commercial projects on the go that prohibit me from doing audio/video in relation to my story, and thanks to Reddit for inviting me to do this AMA.
I was arrested in March 2002 for ‘hacking’ into various gov/.mil networks in America, looking for evidence of UFOs and ‘free energy’. It wasn’t a clever hack, no fragmented packets to bypass firewalls or any of the glossy crap. I had a specific intention and, like any good sysadmin (which i was at the time) i wanted a simple process that would catch basic weaknesses, sometimes network-wide, with a simple script and a little creativity. It was cracking more than hacking.
Like any sysadmin knows, the laziest solution is often the best ;+}
In my effort to find solid proof that gov/mil knew about these craft i followed information found in a book by the Disclosure Project, run by Steven Greer. In the book, Donna Hare (who was a NASA launch photographic specialist) said that in building 8 of Johnson Space Centre there was a lab set aside specially for ‘airbrushing out’ UFOs from high-res sat imagery.
The tool i wrote scanned for local Administrator accounts on Windows PCs that had a password of either:
(same as user name)
It was written in PERL and scanned a class B in 8 minutes, the low-latency due to me running the scan on an already compromised machine on the same or another gov/mil network.
I found building 8 by reading the comment sections of the PCs via the command console, these fields are used for auditing and luckily NASA filled them all in, so i knew which PCs were in building 8.
There weren’t many machines in building 8 but one of the first i looked at had folders called ‘raw’ and ‘processed’, or ‘raw’ and ‘cleaned’ or ‘filtered’. The images averaged around 250MB and would have taken a long time at 5 minutes per megabyte on a 56K modem so, having remote control of the PC via a program called Remotely Anywhere i decided to view it live on the desktop, which was risky since they work odd hours at NASA!
The image was coming down very slowly via the Java-based Remotely Anywhere program so i cut the color to 4-bit (16 colors/shades) and the lowest res, which was 640×480 i think, it may even have been 320×240.
The image slowly filled the screen and i could see blackness, superimposed upon which was a blue/white planet, and superimposed on that was a tubular form that was metallic white and had domes around its central circumference and at its ends. This thing had no rivets or seams and looked futuristic, though of course, with the low res and number of shades in the image detail was lacking.
This was my Eureka moment; Donna Hare’s lab was still in existence! I was waiting for this image to come down and planning on the fastest way to get all of the other images to me, and right when i was making my plans i saw the mouse cursor move to the bottom-right of the screen, right-click the network icon and choose to disconnect. I’d been caught and disconnected, missing my chance to grab even a single image.
I never did any intentional damage, or accidental AFAIK, I’m not a vandal, but i did leave stupid messages about disrupting their sense of security.
My family and i then fought my possible extradition to America for 10 years, finally winning the case in 2012 (brief description of a long court case there!).
I know this is an old story, and not too widely publicized in America at the time, so i apologize that there’s nothing new, though hopefully interesting questions will result in interesting answers.
Thank you everyone for being interested, those 3 hours flew by! I enjoyed it a lot, most of my friends aren’t into UFOs/Human origins/consciousness etc. so i probably enjoyed this more than anyone 🙂
Let me tell you what happened to me in 2006, the only odd, men-in-black possibly, kind of thing that did happen to me (apart from being followed by the same van for 2 hours one time across England).
I lived in a bedsit at the time (being unemployed due to my ongoing case), which is one room in a shared house. I was on the first floor (one story up if you’re American). My lady and i had gone to bed on my fold out sofa, i think we fell asleep around midnight, after hours of “Penetrate me like you did the Pentagon!” ;+}
I woke up out of a really deep sleep, so I’m thinking it must have been around 2 or 3am, i was woken up by a really sharp pain in my left heel, so sharp that i jolted awake and reached down to my foot to see what it was, whereupon i was FORCED asleep again, it was like going under general anesthetic, uncomfortable and unwilling.
So i went from painful shock to insta-sleep!
In the morning the first thing i thought of was the pain in my heel, i looked at my foot, it turned out I’d gone to bed with my socks on, being the sexy super-hacker i am, and there were two holes in the sock on my heel.
I removed the sock and found two, perfectly round holes in my heel, each around 5mm in diameter and one with a perfectly circular flap of skin still hanging from it, like someone had done me with a min iature paper hole-punch!
I can’t explain that to this day and can only assume it’s a chip. I’ve had Tri field meters on it, i made a super sensitive magnetometer that showed nothing but two lumps did grow on the heel in the months following the event, and they have now moved around to the inside of the foot.
Be yourself and don’t hurt anyone unless they’re a banker or a politician ;+}
In the AMA, McKinnon said he was no longer afraid the US government was after him.
Are you scared about the US government coming after you again or trying to arrest you themselves in the UK?
No, they have far bigger fish to fry, i was a tiny embarrassment that they blew up in order to get more cyber-security funding possibly. DoD Gets hundreds of thousands of attempted entries in a single year.