IT world split on whether "NASA hacker" should be extradited, poll reveals

July 07, 2006 Sophos Press Release

A poll of over 500 IT professionals has found that the industry is virtually split in two over whether it is right for a British man to be extradited to the USA for allegedly breaking into Pentagon and NASA computers.

Gary McKinnon, a self-confessed computer enthusiast from North London, is alleged to have hacked into computers belonging to the US Army, US Navy, US Air Force, Department of Defense and NASA. British Home Secretary, John Reid, has this week signed the order approving the extradition.

In an online poll*, conducted by Sophos, 52% said that McKinnon should not be extradited, while 48% said it was correct for him to face a US court.

Survey results

Should Gary McKinnon be extradited to the USA?

Yes, he should be extradited
48%
No, he should not
52%

"It's fascinating to see how the IT community is split down the middle regarding Gary McKinnon. Many have expressed sympathy with his plight and think the British authorities have let him down by agreeing to extradite him to the States. This is in marked difference to the reaction we normally hear from the public when alleged virus writers and hackers are making the headlines," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "Hackers should take heed of the McKinnon case, and think carefully about their actions if they don't want a one-way ticket to an American court."

40-year-old McKinnon claims that he did not break into the networks with malicious intent, but to uncover confidential information about anti-gravity propulsion systems and extraterrestrial technology which he believed the authorities were hiding from the public.

McKinnon has been leading a high profile campaign to avoid extradition, demanding that the US authorities should provide evidence of his supposed crimes and damage caused to the UK court, and claiming that he could be sent to the US military camp at Guantanamo Bay. His campaign has been supported by many others in the hacking community.

McKinnon says that he was caught while viewing an image of what he believed to be a UFO on a NASA computer. He has two weeks to appeal against the Home Secretary's decision.

* Sophos online survey, 565 respondents.