Monday, April 7, 2008

2000: first US hacker under 21 sentenced to jail

At 16 years old, Jonathan James gained enormous notoriety when he was the first minor to be sent to prison for hacking. He said he was just having fun looking around and enjoyed the challenge.

Also known as "c0mrade", the South Florida native was 15 years old at the time of the first offense and 16 years old on the date of his sentencing

Between August and October of 1999, James committed a series of intrusions into various systems, including those of BellSouth and the Miami-Dade school system. What brought him to the attention of federal authorities, however, was his intrusion into the computers of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, part of the Defense Department, which analyzes potential threats to the US.

James later admitted he installed an unauthorized "backdoor" in a computer in Virginia, which he used to install a "sniffer" that allowed him to intercept over 3,000 messages to and from DTRA employees, along with numerous DTRA usernames and passwords, including at least 10 on military computers.

A previous intrusion was also traced back to James, into NASA computers. These occurred in 1999, when James targeted computers at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. NASA alleged that James had downloaded proprietary software worth $1.7 million. This intrusion, when detected, caused NASA to shut down its computers for three weeks, costing $41,000 to check and fix its systems. It was later revealed that the precise software obtained was the International Space Station's source code controlling critical life-sustaining elements such as oxygen filtering.

James' house was raided around 6AM on January 26, 2000, by agents from the Department of Defense, NASA and local police. James was formally indicted six months later. On September 21, 2000, he entered into an agreement with the US Attorney. He pleaded guilty to two counts of juvenile delinquency in exchange for a lenient sentence.

James was sentenced to six months in prison and probation until the age of eighteen, and was required to write letters of apology to NASA and the Department of Defense. He was also banned from using computers for recreational purposes.

However, the judge in the case later reversed her decision and allowed James to serve his six months under house arrest, with probation until the age of twenty one. James later violated probation and was taken into custody and served six months. Legal experts said that, given the extent of his intrusions, he would have served at least ten years if he had been an adult. (Photo from netlingo.com. Info from Netlingo.com and Wikipedia)

1 comment:

lesli radcliffe said...

jon james is dead.

did you know him?