NASA hacker pleads guilty

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 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.

This story, "NASA hacker pleads guilty" was originally published by Computerworld.

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