All I Dreamt of was UFOs
An article by Domenico Valente – Translation by @Asphodelia
There are very few people who don’t find stories of UFO sightings fascinating. As a child, when they talked about Aliens on TV I would stare at the screen, mesmerised; these days, I watch ‘Voyager’ and find it funny.
We are still none the wiser about the existence of alien life, but Gary McKinnon was searching for evidence and wanted answers. Answers to those questions were certainly not forthcoming; the ‘evidence’ was never quite refuted or proven but everything seemed to point to the same conclusion, or rather, to the same place. For UFO enthusiasts, the most mysterious and intriguing place is Area 51 – and that’s where Gary needed to get to to find the answers he was looking for.
The Holy Grail of UFO knowledge is strictly off-limits, so much so that nobody, not even the most reckless, have managed to infiltrate it. But Gary never thought for a second of going all the way to Nevada, after all, he had access to a computer and it was all there in his hands.
Gary McKinnon, a British citizen, born in 1966 and affected by Asperger’s Syndrome, was known in the hacker community as ‘Solo’; he is currently being accused by the US authorities to have perpetrated the “biggest military computer hack of all time”.
The US authorities claim he deleted critical files from operating systems, which shut down the US Army’s Military District of Washington network of 2,000 computers for 24 hours, as well as deleting US Navy Weapons logs, rendering a naval base’s network of 300 computers inoperable after the September 11th terrorist attacks. McKinnon is also accused of copying data, account files and passwords onto his own computer. US authorities claim the cost of tracking and correcting the problems he caused was $800,000 [Source: Wikipedia]
But Gary McKinnon, as he will subsequently explain to the authorities, was only looking for evidence of extraterrestrial life. He was charged by the British authorities for cyber-crimes in 2002; by 2005, the US authorities formally request extradition to trial him in the same way as a fundamentalist islamic terrorist would be tried.
As previously mentioned, Gary is affected by Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism which limits one’s ability to socially interact but causes obsessive interest in a limited range of subjects at the exclusion of everything else. These very subjects, in Gary’s case, were Unidentified Flying Objects.
Gary’s story is a curious one – that of a man who, in his search for the truth on UFO, infiltrates the ‘Super Servers’ of US defence and as a consequences, is at risk of serving 60 years in a US prison (he is reported to be terrified at the prospect of ending up at Guantanamo Bay). I don’t mean to go on about his condition, but in that same period of time, 2001-2002, the Pentagon servers were pretty much bombarded by hackers from all over the world and Gary, simply by using a simple script called Perl, managed to access the blank passwords, i.e. those set in an operating system by default.
Do you think that Gary is the only one who ever managed to hack into the Pentagon servers? Well, you’re wrong. But Gary, thanks to a law passed by the Blair Government, is the only hacker that the US Administration is trying to extradite because of such accusations.
Kevin Mitnick, known as ‘Condor’, wrote in his book ‘The Art of Deception’, that “a secure computer is one that’s turned off”. Clearly this measure was too extreme for the expert network administrators of the US Defence, but such thoughtlessness turned out to be equally destructive.
If it’s true that you can never err too much on the side of caution, the Pentagon should perhaps be grateful to Gary McKinnon instead of using him as a scapegoat for their carelessness.
Putting Gary behind bars will not be sufficient to justify, to US taxpayers, the costs incurred by a cyber attack and neither will achieve anything towards preventing any further attacks of this kind in the future.