Hackers face trial for breaching NASA systems

Hackers face trial for breaching NASA systems

By Tony Lee Orr

GCN Staff

Authorities this month arrested a 20-year-old New York man and a Long Island, N.Y., teen-ager on charges stemming from separate hacking incidents at NASA facilities.

Raymond Torricelli, known as Rolex in hacker circles, faces federal charges in connection with the unauthorized access of two computers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., according to information filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in White Plains. He remains free on a $50,000 bond.

A five-count complaint alleges that Torricelli, of New Rochelle, N.Y., hacked a NASA computer used for satellite design and mission analysis and breached a system used by the lab's Communications Ground Systems Section as an e-mail and internal Web server.

Torricelli installed a program on the first computer that let him open a chatroom for members of his hacker group, known
as #conflict, according to the court filings.

Data recovered from Torricelli's PC included transcripts of discussions in which group members allegedly talked about plans to hack other computers, steal credit card numbers and use their systems to electronically alter the results of the MTV Movie Awards, the court complaint states.

Back-door entry

Torricelli allegedly installed a sniffer program on NASA's internal Web server and used it to capture passwords and user names for computers owned by San Jose State University and Georgia Southern University.

Torricelli was able to decrypt the password code using a program known as John-the-Ripper, the court complaint said. He then accessed more than 800 computers, some of which he used to earn up to $400 per week by sending mass e-mail messages for a pornographic Web site, the complaint alleges.

Investigators from the NASA Inspector General's Office, FBI and New Rochelle Police Department took part in the case.

Torricelli faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of the credit card fraud and password possession charges, five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the password interception charge, and one year in prison and a $100,000 fine on each of the charges involving the hacking of the NASA computers, according to Mary Jo White of the U.S. Attorney's Office for White Plains.

In an unrelated incident, a 15-year-old Rocky Point, Long Island, boy faces computer tampering charges filed in connection with the hacking of three NASA systems on two separate occasions, NASA officials said. The youth is scheduled to appear in a Suffolk County, N.Y., family court.

The high school student in November of last year allegedly broke into a NASA contractor's system belonging to the Goddard Institute for Space Studies on Long Island.

Later the same month, the teen allegedly hacked into two NASA Web servers at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. He allegedly altered and uploaded files to display images referring to the hacking group SSH, the NASA IG said.

Stay Connected

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.