09:55 AM

Britain OKs Extradition Of Hacker To U.S.

In an online poll of IT professionals, a slim majority--52%--said Gary McKinnon, accused of the biggest U.S. military hack ever, shouldn't be turned over to U.S. authorities. Some 48% agreed with the British government's decision.

Great Britain has approved the extradition of a man called the "biggest military hacker ever" who is accused of hacking into scores of U.S. government computers, including systems at the Pentagon and machines owned by NASA.

Gary McKinnon, 40, was arrested in 2002 following charges by U.S. law enforcement that he illegally accessed 97 government computers and caused $700,000 worth of damage. Prosecutors, led by Paul McNulty, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, want McKinnon to be tried in the U.S.

Tuesday, Home Secretary John Reid signed an order for his extradition. McKinnon has 14 days to appeal.

McKinnon and his supporters have claimed he won't receive a fair trial in the U.S. Thursday, he told the BBC that he would fight the extradition order and is "very worried and feeling very let down by my own Government."

An instant online poll conducted by U.K.-based security company Sophos showed an almost-even split of opinion among IT professionals. A slim majority -- 52 percent -- said he should not be turned over to U.S. authorities, while 48 percent agreed with the Home Office's decision.

"It's fascinating to see how the IT community is split down the middle regarding Gary McKinnon," said Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant with Sophos, in a statement. "This is in marked difference to the reaction we normally hear from the public when alleged virus writers and hackers are making the headlines.

"Hackers should take heed of the McKinnon case, and think carefully about their actions if they don't want a one-way ticket to an American court," Cluley concluded.

If convicted on all counts, McKinnon could face up to 70 years in prison.

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