Teen convicted of hacking military computers

A teenage hacker nabbed by an Army cybercrimes investigative unit has been sentenced to a year in prison and ordered to pay $15,000 to his victims.

Dennis Moran, known as "Coolio," now 18 years old and a resident of New Hampshire, successfully hacked three Army servers, an Air Force server, and two private sector computers.

The military servers were domain name servers, key computers that direct network traffic and function as "the white pages of the Internet," said David Shaver, a special agent with the Army Criminal Investigative Command's Computer Crime Investigative Unit, based at Fort Belvoir, Va. When hackers get unrestricted access to such servers they can redirect network traffic anywhere they wish, said Shaver.

The Army's computer crime unit must cooperate with a number of state and federal law enforcement agencies because cyberattacks tend to cross many jurisdictional boundaries. During the case, the unit worked with the FBI, the Air Force's Office of Special Investigation and the state of New Hampshire.

Because Moran was 17 at the time he committed his crimes, the FBI could not prosecute him. But in New Hampshire children are considered to be adults at age 17, not 18 as in many other states.

Moran invaded the military's computers on February 14th, 2000. The Army's Computer Crime Investigative Unit was notified by both a regional Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) and the Defense Department CERT that an intrusion had occurred and had come from the same Internet address.

According to Shaver, Moran was not the savviest of hackers. He used his personal Internet service and downloaded the programs he used during his offensives. "He used another person's script," Shaver said. "He didn't do anything super-savvy."

The military computers Moran compromised had to be rebuilt to ensure he hadn't created a back door through which he could enter at a later time.

Of Moran's $15,000 fine, $5,000 will be used to cover the costs of rebuilding the Defense Department Web sites that he hacked. The remainder will go to the private sector firms he broke into.

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