NASA hacker loses judicial review, Sophos comments

July 31, 2009 Sophos Press Release

A Sophos poll* of 550 IT professionals has revealed that seven out of ten respondents believe that NASA hacker Gary McKinnon should not be extradited to the US, despite the high court's contradictory verdict earlier today.

Survey results

Should Gary McKinnon be extradited to the USA?

Yes, he should be extradited
29%
No, he should not
71%

The London-based hacker applied for judicial review following a previous decision in February this year by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) that refused to bring charges against McKinnon in the UK. Despite a relentless media campaign and several extradition appeals in the House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights, today's decision by Lord Justice Stanley Burnton and Mr Justice Wilkie could leave McKinnon facing up to 60 years imprisonment in a 'supermax' facility.

The same poll, conducted by the IT security and control firm back in 2006**, saw the IT community divided over McKinnon's fate (52 percent against extradition; 48 percent for), but the latest figures show that there has been a surge in public support for the self-confessed hacker.

"McKinnon has had tremendous support from hackers and ordinary people throughout this saga - but what is truly staggering is the support he has received from the IT community," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "The consensus is that it is perhaps inappropriate to make an example of a UFO conspiracy theorist when serious crimes are still being carried out by financially-motivated hackers, stealing identities, sending spam and creating botnets."

McKinnon was arrested seven years ago after allegedly hacking into computers belonging to the US Army, US Navy, US Air Force, Department of Defense and NASA. The computer enthusiast from North London claims that he broke into the computer systems only to hunt for top secret information about anti-gravity propulsion systems and alien technology, which he believed the authorities were hiding from the public.

US authorities, meanwhile, allege that McKinnon - known by the handle 'Solo' - caused nearly a million dollars worth of damage, shutting down systems responsible for the tracking the location of naval ships, and protecting Washington DC.

"Of course a strong message must be sent out to hackers that their activities are unacceptable, but there is arguably a difference between McKinnon and cybercriminals who are in it for the money," continued Cluley. "The question is, do McKinnon and his numerous supporters have any more tricks up their sleeve to prevent his unwilling departure from Heathrow airport?"

* Sophos online survey, 550 respondents, June-July 2009
** Sophos online survey, 565 respondents, 2006

Disclaimer: Please bear in mind that this poll is not scientific and is provided for information purposes only. The comments expressed on this page are those of a subsection of poll participants, and not necessarily those of Sophos. Sophos makes no guarantees about the accuracy of the results other than that they reflect the choices of the users who participated.