Some people may remember Gary McKinnon, the British system administrator who was arrested in 2002 for hacking into NASA, the American Department of Defense and the U.S. Airforce. McKinnon has been convicted in absentia in the United States for those offenses, and he is back in the news as he is fighting his extradition and wants to be tried in the UK under the Computer Misuse Act. However, reports at the time failed to disclose his motives, why would anyone hack into NASA? In a new interview for the BBC, McKinnon finally answers the question: he was looking for evidence of the existence of UFOs.
Perhaps the most serious point of the interview is the fact that McKinnon was not that much of a hacker, he simply designed a PERL script that hunted for systems in NASA and the military that had blank administrator passwords, and allowed him to gain control over those machines. He claims to have found thousands of compromised machines in this way. It seems like this is a common vulnerability, and Windows XP Pro users are particularly open to certain attacks. After watching the interview, I checked my services, and lo and behold, my administrator password was blank, and my Remote Registry service was indeed turned on! My system could be a zombie and I would not know it.
Besides the interesting issues of computer security and defense intelligence, what we all really wanted to know was if he did find any evidence for UFOs. McKinnon claims he did find pictures of artifacts that could not be human (I never know how UFO believers can identify what is human and what is not). He claimed that he could not obtain any evidence of this because he was caught while downloading an image, and he did not think of hitting the PrintScreen button. Yes, you heard correctly, this masterful hacker is going to jail, and he forgot to printout his evidence.