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10 May 2006

Alleged UFO hacker can be extradited to USA, court decides

Supporters of Gary McKinnon on the internet are campaigning for him not to be extradited.

Experts at SophosLabs™, Sophos's global network of virus, spyware and spam analysis centers, have advised hackers to think carefully about the consequences of their activities, following the decision to continue the extradition to the USA of a British man who is alleged to have broken into Pentagon and NASA computers.

Gary McKinnon, a 40-year-old 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. 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.

In a judgment today, a court said it was satisfied that McKinnon's extradition would be compatible with his human rights. The case will now be considered by John Reid, the British Home Secretary.

"There's a clear message here - don't mess with the Americans! Earlier this week they dished out the toughest sentence ever to a malware author, today they sound like they're going to be able to extradite a high profile suspected hacker," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "If you or your malware hacks into a US government computer, regardless of your motives, you are really asking for trouble. Governments around the world are getting more serious about pursuing cybercriminals, and are increasingly succeeding in catching the culprits. Now might be a good time for hackers to switch to a new, safer hobby."

McKinnon claimed in a BBC interview broadcast last week that he broke into military PCs which were not protected properly with passwords. Sophos reminds organizations that they must defend their computers sensibly with secure passwords, operating system security patches, firewalls and up-to-date anti-virus software.

About Sophos

More than 100 million users in 150 countries rely on Sophos as the best protection against complex threats and data loss. Sophos is committed to providing complete security solutions that are simple to deploy, manage, and use and that deliver the industry's lowest total cost of ownership. Sophos offers award-winning encryption, endpoint security, web, email, mobile and network security solutions backed by SophosLabs - a global network of threat intelligence centers.

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