February 10, 2012
NASA Computer Hacking Suspect Indicted
A federal grand jury has indicted a Romanian man accused of hacking into NASA climate research computers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, prosecutors announced on Wednesday.
According to the Associated Press (AP), 25-year-old Robert Butyka, known online under the pseudonym "Iceman," was indicted Tuesday on one count of unauthorized impairment of a protected computer.
The charge stems from a December 2010 attack which reportedly infected 25 climate research and weather forecasting computers at the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder Program with malicious code and causing $50,000 in damages.
"As a result of Butyka's alleged conduct, researchers were unable to use the computers for more than two months while NASA removed the malicious code in the machines, restored data and took steps to prevent further access by hackers," the Department of Justice said in a statement, according to ZDNet UK's David Meyer.
Veronica McGregor, a spokeswoman with JPL, told the AP that the laboratory would not disclose how deep Butyka was able to hack into the system, but that he was not able to gain access to the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder device used to transmit weather measurements back to Earth.
"My impression is that he didn't steal anything. He created ways to get back into the system and used the computers to launch attacks on other computers," Assistant U.S. Attorney Erik Silber told Dalina Castellanos of the Los Angeles Times. Silber added that Butyka was in no way affiliated with the U.S. space agency and had no legitimate reason to have access to the hacked climate computers to begin with.
Butyka was arrested as part of a joint U.S.-Romanian investigation, Castellanos said.
He is currently serving time in Romania after being sentenced to three years in prison for similar charges, and if convicted in the U.S., he could be incarcerated for up to an additional 10 years, Reuters reported on February 8. American authorities will attempt to bring him back into the country to stand trial, the news agency added.
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