Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Curious Case of Gary McKinnon

For those new to NOPE or who have never heard this story before, around the time of 9/11 a computer hacker in the U.K. named Gary McKinnon broke into Naval Weapons Station Earle's computer networks, allegedly in search of hidden files on UFOs. The amount of damage to these networks varies depending on the media source, but this piece (mostly favorable to McKinnon's plight) from The Daily Mail puts the pricetag at $700,000 and damage to 2,000 "Army computers." Interestingly, this 2002 press release from the U.S. Justice Department, and then-U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie (you know, the one running against Jon Corzine for New Jersey governor this November), whether trumped up or factual (we'll assume the latter) is much more harsh:

"The entire network of 300 computers at NWS Earle, located in Colts Neck, N.J., was effectively shut down for an entire week, according to military officials at NWS Earle. For another three weeks afterward, military personnel and government civilian employees at NWSE were only able to send and receive internal e-mail. It was only approximately a month after McKinnon’s last intrusion into the network that NWS Earle was able to automatically route Naval message traffic and access the Internet, according to military officials at NWS Earle. This was a grave intrusion into a vital military computer system at a time when we, as a nation, had to summon all of our defenses against further attack, Christie said."

The release then goes on to say...
"The Indictment charges that on April 7, 2001, McKinnon hacked into the NWS Earle computer network through the Port Services computer, the primary computer used by NWS Earle for monitoring the identity, location, physical condition, staffing, battle readiness and resupply of Navy ships in and near the NWS Earle Pier Complex."

Yes, that is correct...a possibly autistic and unemployed "computer geek" (as many media stories portray Mr. McKinnon - U.K. media is less "politically correct") crashed a mission-critical network at Earle. Although far different from the Laurelwood EIS perspective that the Navy can handle and/or enhance the physical security of the base with civilians traversing the new proposed unimpeded access road and living at Earle through 2040, the McKinnon case sheds light on different perspectives of "security" and enhances NOPE's leverage to fairly refute this contention.

Some 8 years later we can only guess that Earle's computer network is a lot more secure, but the McKinnon case is worth watching (simply do a Search Google News on "Gary McKinnon" and/or "extradition" for more, like this take from GQ Online). Politically speaking, we wonder whether Mr. Christie's involvement in the McKinnon case and current run for the governor's position will shed additional light on the Laurelwood housing case.

Unlike the "your security is cr*p!" message that Mr. McKinnon so brazenly left on Earle's network back in 2001, NOPE certainly hopes the opposite is true in terms of physical security, in the event that 300 families indeed end up living unimpededly on the base by September 2010.

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