Historic Hacks: Gary McKinnon
In our Historic Hacks segment, we like to look back at internet events that shocked, surprised, or horrified us. Today we look at the biggest military computer hack of all time, even though it might not have occurred for the reasons you might think…
Eyes on the skies
We’ve all heard tales of Area 51 and government cover-ups concerning UFOs and little green men. With a quick internet search, you can easily find pages and pages of conspiracy theories about our galactic neighbors popping by for a chat. Gary McKinnon must have been convinced of the possibility of extraterrestrial visitors when he hacked directly into the channels at NASA.
Under the name “Solo”, McKinnon infiltrated US military and NASA computers by the dozen in order to satisfy his curiosity about the existence of hidden proof of alien invasion. In total, 97 computers were affected by McKinnon’s activities. While using his girlfriend’s aunt’s computer, he installed a virus, deleted a few files, and left a message. His activity scared the pants off of the US government. McKinnon’s activity also shut down approximately 2000 computers for 24 hours.
“Your security is crap.” – Gary McKinnon
As it happens, McKinnon’s motives were mostly innocent. However, his 13-month hacking stint to made a lasting impression on the US military. The disturbance led to the mother of international court battles. It has been estimated that McKinnon’s damage cost taxpayers approximately $700,000. The US government set out to make sure that McKinnon didn’t escape unscathed. In November 2007, a Federal Grand Jury indicted McKinnon on seven counts of a computer-related crime. His sentence could total up to a 70-year sentence if convicted.
What follows was a media circus of court appeals and sassy remarks made by both the UK and the US government. In the end, McKinnon served almost no jail time and was not extradited to the US for punishment; Theresa May refused to extradite McKinnon to the US due to mental health issues. Instead, British rock royalty David Gilmour stepped in and championed his cause. Gilmour paid all McKinnon’s medical bills after NHS withdrew support. After a song, a benefit concert, and rally of supporters including Graham Nash and Boris Johnson, McKinnon was free to live his life.
Are they out there?
According to an interview with Wired, McKinnon stated that he did indeed find evidence of extraterrestrial spaceships. McKinnon explained his motivation to Wired saying that “I knew that governments suppressed antigravity, UFO-related technologies, free energy or what they call zero-point energy. This should not be kept hidden from the public when pensioners can’t pay their fuel bills.”
McKinnon says that in his search he found photos of airbrushed images of UFOs taken by high-resolution satellite imaging. He also stated that NASA had “huge, high-resolution images stored in their picture files.” McKinnon admits that he didn’t access as much as he would have liked due to issues with his dial-up internet connection.