A federal grand jury has indicted a Romanian hacker on 10 charges of breaking into computers owned by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Goddard Space Flight Center, Sandia National Laboratory and the US Naval Observatory.
Victor Faur, 26, of Arad in Romania, is the alleged leader of a hacking group called the 'WhiteHat Team' accused of targeting the servers "because they were so secure".
Once inside, Faur reconfigured some systems to act as chat rooms for his team and stole passwords to gain further access.
He and the other team members also caused screens to be displayed to users informing them that the machines had been hacked.
"The compromised government computers were used to collect and process data from spacecraft in Earth orbit and in deep space, to evaluate new scientific technologies, and to collect, store and analyse other scientific data," said Thom Mrozek of the Los Angeles Attorney's Office.
"NASA, the Energy Department and the Navy could not rely on 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."
NASA estimates that the attacks cost it $1.3m and the Energy Department and the Navy together suffered nearly $100,000 in losses, according to Mrozek.
Faur has been charged with conspiracy and nine counts of computer intrusion. If found guilty he faces 54 years in prison.
Faur is already subject to a separate prosecution in Romania, and will be extradited to the US as soon as the local prosecution is finished.
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