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British Hacker Story
From: [email protected] (NB-LON)
Subject: London Newspaper Runs Old "Superhacker" Story
Date: 3 Jan 95 20:44:22 GMT
LONDON, ENGLAND, 1995 JAN 3 (NB) -- As the UK started back
to work today after the long Christmas and New Year
shutdown, readers of the Independent newspaper were treated
to the banner headline "British Boy Raided US Defense
The curious thing about the story was that none of the
other nationalpapers or news wires carried any reports. On
investigation, Newsbytes discovered why -- the story dates
back to July of last year, and briefly resurfaced in early
November on the US news wires.
According to the Independent, a 16-year-old British boy has
been arrested in connection with a alleged unauthorized
intrusions into the US government's computers and "was able
to watch secret communications between US agents in North
Korea during the crisis over nuclear inspections last
The story is quite correct, except that the boy in question
was arrested last July, when the original story broke.
Commenting on the story, Peter Sommer, a leading security
consultant and a senior with the Computer Research Center
at the London School of Economics, said that it smacked of
the British Telecom secrets case of late November,also
reported in the Independent.
That story, as reported by Newsbytes, turned out to be
something of a non-event when the hacker, who posted
details of top secret files on BT's ex-directory computer
"across the Internet," turned out to be Steve Fleming, a
Scottish freelance journalist who worked as a temp for BT
in the summer and broke BT's own security rules by
downloading files from the BT's Customer Service System
(CSS) computer, then mailed them -- across the Internet --
to other people.
"I'm amazed at the Independent running yet another story
involving the Internet," Sommer told Newsbytes, adding that
it is "a very old story. It seems that all they have to do
is to work up a story about a hacking attempt, whether
successful or not, and weave in a story about the Internet,
and it's a headline story."
Ken Young, newly installed editor of Communicate, a leading
industry communications magazine in London, and a veteran
of the UK communications industry for more than a decade,
told Newsbytes that the story seemed a little thin.
"It looks like another hacking story except that (the
newspaper) has written in something about the Internet, and
bingo! You've got a report that the information was
accessible to 32 million users on the Internet," he said.
Sommer, meanwhile, told Newsbytes that he had made his own
discreet inquiries about the story with high level
authorities when it broke last summer.
"There are two problems with this case. Firstly, any lawyer
worth his salt would invoke Section 69 of the Police &
Criminal Evidence Act," he said. This Act, Sommer
explained, requires that, before a computer can be
considered as admissible evidence in court, the owner of
the computer must issue a certificate of correct working.
This, he said, could not be issued, as a casual user of a
PC would be unable to make such a certification.
Sommer went on to explain that the second reason that the
case could be problematic for the prosecution was "that the
lawyer would ask the court for full disclosure of all
affected files on victim's host computers," which, since
such files are almost certain to be classified in the US,
could not be revealed in a British courtroom.
The facts surrounding the case, as reported by Newsbytes,
were that the 16-year-old -- operating under the code name
of Data Stream -- was one of several who gained
unauthorized access to the US defense computer network in
late 1993 and early 1994 and that some files were deleted.
At the time, press reports said that as many as a million
passwords were compromised, and may have compromised the
military readiness of the United States. The case has,
Newsbytes understands, been fully investigated by the US
Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) although
details of the report of the investigation by the USAF OSI
Originally, the press reports of the time speculated
whether the youth would be the first under-18 to be
extradited to the US to face charges. It seems that,
following last summer's arrest and submission of the report
to the Crown Prosecution Service that the case is being
quietly shuffled into a file because of the practical
problems in pursuing a prosecution.