NASA hacker pleads guilty

By Jennifer DiSabatino, Computerworld |  Hardware

The man accused of breaking into NASA computer systems pleaded guilty Friday in
federal court in exchange for a recommendation for a reduced sentence.

Raymond Torricelli faced five counts of breaking into computer systems and stealing
credit card information, according to court documents from the U.S. District Court in
New York.

Torricelli admitted to hacking into computers belonging to href="http://www.jpl.nasa.gov" target=NEW>NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in
Pasadena, Calif., and San Jose State
University
. He also admitted to taking credit card information from the computers
to set up telephone service and downloading password files to gain free access to
Internet accounts.

The plea agreement recommends a sentence of eight to 14 months. Maximum sentencing
guidelines on these charges, according to court documents, allow for a combined
sentence of 27 years in prison, more than $700,000 in fines and up to double the loss
of the victims or twice Torricelli's financial gain -- whichever is greater.

Sentencing is scheduled for March 7, and Torricelli may end up with more than the
recommended sentence, at the discretion of the judge

In a written statement to the court, Torricelli said he broke into NASA computers
known as HEIDI.JPL.NASA.GOVbetween April 17 and 25 in 1998 with a root-kit tool that
could give him access to all files on that computer.

"Although at the time that the root kit was installed I did not know that it was
being installed on computers belonging to NASA, I did know it was being installed on
computers that I was not authorized to access," Torricelli told the court in his
statement.

Between March and October 1998, Torricelli said, he used a sniffer program to
monitor traffic on San Jose State University's network to gain user names and
passwords.

In November 1998, Torricelli said, working from his home in New Rochelle, N.Y., he
downloaded files and stole credit card information.

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