NASA hacker Gary McKinnon loses appeal against US extradition

NASAGary McKinnon has lost his appeal at the House of Lords against being extradited to the United States.

It seems obvious that the USA’s position is clear. Anyone making any attempts to compromise American government and military computers and data, will face the consequences – in McKinnon’s case, this means they’re not going to give up until they’ve got their man.

McKinnon has gained the support of many other hackers and indeed ordinary people, and this decision will doubtless come as a shock after these years of appeals.

Whether McKinnon caused real harm to US government computers seems open to question. Certainly he admits that he broke into the networks, but says it was only to hunt for confidential information about anti-gravity propulsion systems and UFO technology which he believed the authorities were hiding from the public.

Sign up to our free newsletter.
Security news, advice, and tips.

US authorities, meanwhile, allege that McKinnon stole 950 passwords and deleted files at a naval base in New Jersey, responsible for replenishing munitions and supplies for the Atlantic fleet.

When we asked IT managers last year whether they thought Gary McKinnon should be jailed, less than half of them thought that was an appropriate sentence. Many IT workers seem to have a lot of sympathy for McKinnon’s ongoing plight.

But, any form of hacking is illegal and should be punished as such, and hacking into US government networks is bound to come with harsh repercussions – anyone thinking about engaging in these types of activities in the future should think twice.

Gary’s next step? My guess is that he only has one option left – an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

The full judgement from the Lords is now available on its website: “McKinnon V Government of The United States of America and Another”.

Picture credit: NASA

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

What do you think? Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.