US claims Aussies hacked govt computers

By on
US claims Aussies hacked govt computers

And allegedly left backdoors to return.

Two Australians were among an international group of hackers who broke into US government computer systems, US authorities claim.

One member of the group, a British national, has been arrested in England and charged by the United States and Britain with hacking into US government systems, including those run by the military, to steal confidential data and disrupt operations, authorities said in a US grand jury indictment made public today.

According to the document, Lauri Love and three co-conspirators allegedly infiltrated thousands of systems including those of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the US space agency NASA and the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Love, 28, and his unnamed co-conspirators, including two in Australia and one in Sweden, then left backdoors in the networks to later retrieve data, and intended that their activity "disrupt the operations and infrastructure of the United States government."

"Such conduct endangers the security of our country and is an affront to those who serve," US Attorney Paul Fishman in New Jersey, who announced the charges, said in a statement.

Love was charged in Britain with violating the Computer Misuse Act, and charged in the United States with accessing a US government computer without permission and conspiracy, authorities said.

Fishman said the hacking took place from October 2012 until this month. He said it compromised personal data of US military personnel, and information on defense budgets, contract bidding, and the demolition and disposal of military facilities, and caused millions of dollars of losses.

The arrest comes as authorities worldwide coordinate efforts to combat cybercrime. On October 10, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel issued a memorandum emphasising a need to safeguard even unclassified technical data against cyber intrusions to help protect US military superiority.

Chat rooms

Love was arrested at his home, about 70 miles northeast of London, on October 25 by the cybercrime unit of Britain's National Crime Agency and other officials, authorities said. He has been released on bail until February 2014, an NCA spokeswoman said.

US prosecutors said the scheme by Love and his co-conspirators involved the installation of malware in the hacked systems, creating shells and backdoors that allowed them to return later to steal data.

The indictment described how Love, who was also known as "nsh" and "route" and "peace" online, at times allegedly used internet chat rooms to discuss the hacking and efforts to conceal it.

In an October 2012 conversation described in the indictment, Love discussed the hacking of an Army Corps database that might have yielded 400,000 email addresses, and asked a co-conspirator to "grab one email for curiosity."

Nine months later, in July 2013, he appeared to boast about accessing a NASA database, telling another co-conspirator "ahaha, we owning lots of nasa sites," the indictment said.

Later that month, he told the same co-conspirator after another hacking: "This ... stuff is really sensitive. ... It's basically every piece of information you'd need to do full identity theft on any employee or contractor for the (agency)," according to the indictment.

Love faces up to five years in prison and a fine on each US criminal count. Prosecutors said he faces additional charges in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, stemming from other unspecified "intrusions."

Got a news tip for our journalists? Share it with us anonymously here.

Most Read Articles

Log In

  |  Forgot your password?