Unemployed Romanian hacker accused of breaking into NASA

Robert Butyka, 26, allegedly caused US$500,000 damage to NASA's systems

Romanian authorities have arrested a 26-year old hacker who is accused of breaking into multiple NASA servers and causing US$500,000 in damages to the U.S. space agency's systems.

Robert Butyka, 26, was arrested on Tuesday in Cluj, a city in Western Romania, following an investigation by the Romanian Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT).

According to local reports, the hacker used the online moniker of "Iceman." He does not have a higher education or an occupation, a DIICOT spokeswoman said.

Butyka is accused of hacking into several NASA servers over a period of time that started on Dec. 12, 2010. The authorities claim that the hacker destroyed protected data and restricted access to it.

The charges brought against Butyka include obtaining unauthorized access and causing severe disruptions to a computer system, modifying, damaging and restricting access to data without authorization and possession of hacking programs.

The man will spend 24 hours in police custody while prosecutors seek a court order to extend the detention period. Authorities seized several computers at his home during a raid.

"Through criminal activity, the accused severely affected the operation of computer servers by introducing, modifying and damaging electronic data and restricting access to it," DIICOT said in a statement. The hacker will be tried in Romania as there is no extradition request in his case.

Butyka is not the first Romanian hacker to break into computer systems belonging to NASA. In fact, the U.S. space agency is a common target for hackers looking to prove their skills.

Victor Faur, a Romanian man who hacked into multiple servers belonging to NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Navy in 2005, is currently appealing a court verdict ordering him to pay damages of $240,000 to the U.S. government.

Faur received a 16-month suspended prison sentence in November 2008, but he claimed that he didn't damage the systems he accessed without authorization. According to his legal defense team, the U.S. government failed to provide sufficient proof that would justify the damage calculation.

Another Romanian hacker who calls himself TinKode has built an online reputation by breaking into high-profile servers. TinKode's list of compromised systems includes multiple NASA Web servers.

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Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
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