[ISN] Accused Pentagon Hacker's Online Life

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Wed Nov 20 2002 - 00:01:27 PST

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    By Kevin Poulsen
    SecurityFocus Online
    Posted: 19/11/2002 
    Usenet posts show Gary McKinnon was a bit of a phone phreak, knew
    where to buy lock picks, and had an early interest in defense
    computers. A former employer says he was bored at work.
    The British man accused of the most ambitious hack attacks against
    Defense Department computers in years was also a fine network
    administrator, according to a former co-worker.
    A manager at the London-based telecom equipment seller Corporate
    Business Technology Ltd. recalls Gary McKinnon as a friendly -- if
    unremarkable -- presence at the company, where he provided IT support
    for an office of about 50 people. "He was personable, relatively happy
    around the office," says the manager, who declined to give his name.  
    "You wouldn't have realized that he could do what he did."
    McKinnon, now 36, worked for CBT for approximately ten months ending
    in late 1999, the company says. He left on good terms. "As I remember
    it, he decided to leave because he was bored working here," says the
    manager. "But at the time that he left, he didn't have any place to go
    On Tuesday (Nov 12, 2002), U.S. officials in Virginia charged McKinnon
    with seven felony counts of computer fraud for allegedly penetrating
    92 different systems belonging to the Army, Navy, Air Force, the
    Pentagon, and NASA, as well as six computers owned by private
    companies and organizations, in a year-long hacking spree that ended
    last March.
    A related indictment unsealed the same day in New Jersey charges the
    Londoner with a September, 2001 attack against U.S. Navy systems at
    the Earle Naval Weapons Station that allegedly resulted in the network
    of 300 computers being shut down for a week.
    The private computers listed in the Virginia indictment are mostly at
    traditional easy targets, like public libraries and universities, and
    may have been used as cut-outs to cover the hacker's tracks. Gregg
    Cannon, IT director at victim-company Tobin International in Texas,
    says federal investigators contacted and subpoenaed his company early
    this year after a test system outside the company firewall was
    compromised and used to attack government computers. "All the
    government would tell us is that it was overseas," says Cannon. "He
    didn't do any damage."
    Diverse Interests
    The U.S. is seeking McKinnon's extradition, which McKinnon is fighting
    in the U.K.
    McKinnon's former co-worker said Wednesday that there was nothing
    about the network admin to hint at a future as a civilian infowarrior,
    "assuming it was him that did it."
    A trail of Usenet messages posted by McKinnon in the late 1990's to
    public Internet newsgroups suggests McKinnon had an early interest in
    esoteric technological subjects.
    Postings in 1997 to the U.K. phone hacking newsgroup alt.ph.uk show
    McKinnon, or someone with the same name, offering advice on purchasing
    lock picks in the U.K., tips on encrypting files, and hints on
    changing the electronic serial numbers in cellular telephones.
    A flurry of less subversive posts in December, 1999 from an email
    address at Corporate Business Technologies have McKinnon advising
    colleagues in Windows-administration newsgroups on a variety of topics
    -- most of them security related.
    One post from that period hints at an earlier start to McKinnon's
    interest in U.S. defense systems than the government has acknowledged.  
    The message finds McKinnon advising someone on what brand of intrusion
    detection system to buy. He recommends ISS's RealSecure, because "The
    US Navy use[s] that and only that ..."
    "[B]ut then," McKinnon adds without explanation, "they really need
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