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12/1/2006
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Romanian Indicted For Hacking NASA, Navy Computers

The intrusions and loss of data cost the Navy, NASA, and the Department of Energy a total of more than $1.4 million in losses. The man charged with the intrusions now is facing prosecution on separate charges in Romania.

A federal grand jury on Thursday indicted a Romanian man for allegedly hacking into more than 150 different government computers, including machines in NASA, the Department of Energy, and the U.S. Navy.

As a result of the intrusion and loss of data, which went on for about two years, NASA reportedly suffered $1.36 million in losses. The Energy Department and the Navy together reported a loss of nearly $100,000.

Victor Faur, 26, of Arad, Romania, is the leader of the hacking group called the WhiteHat Team, according to Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the United States Attorney's Office in the Central District of California. The group's alleged goal is to hack into U.S. government computers because of their reputation as some of the most secure machines in the world, the USAO reported in a written release.

Faur faces 10 counts -- one count of conspiracy and nine counts of computer intrusion. If he is convicted on all 10 counts, he would face a maximum sentence of 54 years in federal prison.

Right now, Faur is being prosecuted by the Romanian government for unrelated computer crimes, according to Mrozek. He says he is not sure what the specific Romanian charges are.

Mrozek says the next step is to get Faur onto U.S. soil so he can be prosecuted here. But that will have to wait until his Romanian prosecution is complete.

"It is our intention to get him into the United States to face the charges, either by extradition or by other means," he says, adding that Faur could turn himself in to U.S. authorities or he could be picked up if he ever tries to cross country borders. "The timing largely depends on what happens with the Romanian prosecution."

In the indictment, the government alleges that Faur hacked into and took control of government computers, causing the compromised machines to display messages "that flaunted the computer intrusion." Faur also allegedly forced the computers to act as chat rooms where he could communicate with other members of the WhiteHat Team.

The government also claims Faur searched the compromised computers for passwords that he could use to gain unauthorized access to other computers. Some of the computers were used to collect and process data from spacecraft in Earth orbit or deep space, to evaluate new scientific technologies, and to collect, store, and analyze other scientific data.

In a written statement, the U.S. Attorney's Office said "NASA, the Energy Department, and the Navy could not rely upon the integrity of the data on the hacked computers. Therefore, systems had to be rebuilt, and scientists and engineers had to manually communicate with spacecraft."

The investigation was run by NASA's Office of the Inspector General, the Department of Energy's Office of Inspector General, and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

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