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Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Friday 10/06/2005Despite being somewhat more generously appointed than Gary McKinnon, I am not the “UK’s biggest hacker”. Not a hacker at all these days, unless you count running some unofficial Wi-Fi surveys when stuck on a train.

Friday 10/06/2005

Despite being somewhat more generously appointed than Gary McKinnon, I am not the “UK’s biggest hacker”. Not a hacker at all these days, unless you count running some unofficial Wi-Fi surveys when stuck on a train. It’s true that Netstumbler and Nmap will get you a long way towards extradition to the US in minutes, if you’re curious, although if you’re slightly careful over MAC addresses you’re untraceable. I’m a long time out of the serious game, but even I know this. If the accusations against McKinnon are correct, then either he didn’t know the basics of IP networking or he didn’t think what he was doing was going to attract such attention. Certainly not seventy years in the federal slammer. Either way, this is not the droid the US security agencies should be looking for.

The question now is what happens at the extradition hearing. UK defence lawyers have proved somewhat more effective than the Crown Prosecution Service when it comes to dealing with IT matters -- Aaron Caffrey got off in the Port of Houston hacking case, because the jury were left with reasonable doubt as to whether he ran the security attacks traced to his computer, or whether other hackers had taken over his PC. And can anyone tell me what’s happening with the Cliff Stanford trial?

Extradition hearings don’t have juries, though, and judges are much more savvy to the tricks of the trade. They also tend to give more weight to officialdom, and there’s not much doubt that the US is keen to portray McKinnon as a severely dangerous animal. If what’s been published so far is the best evidence that they’ve got, he isn’t. He’s a basically harmless UFO fan looking for evidence, and if your security systems can’t cope with a few eccentrics scratching around after monsters you’ve got more problems than a Roswell air traffic controller.

Let’s hope the judge sees the American bluster for what it is, a bit of extraterritorial arsecovering. Give the man an ASBO saying he can’t go within thirty miles of a space shuttle, or something. Hell, I don’t even know if Fortean Times delivers to Guantanamo Bay.