A Romanian national was indicted on charges of hacking into more than 150 U.S. government computers, causing disruptions that cost NASA, the Energy Department and the Navy nearly $1.5 million.
The federal indictment charges Victor Faur, 26, of Arad, Romania with nine counts of computer intrusion and one count of conspiracy. He faces up to 54 years in prison if convicted of all counts, said Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office.
Faur was being prosecuted by authorities in Romania on separate computer hacking charges, Mrozek said Thursday, and will be brought to Los Angeles upon resolution of that case. It was not known whether Faur had retained a lawyer in the United States.
The U.S. government alleges Faur was the leader of a hacking group called "WhiteHat Team," whose main goal was to break into U.S. government computers because they are some of the securest in the world.
After hacking into and taking control of the computers, Faur programmed them to operate as chat rooms so he could communicate with other WhiteHat members, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Hoffstadt said.
During the break-ins, Faur searched for passwords that WhiteHat members could use to gain unauthorized access to other computers, Hoffstadt said.
The compromised computers were used to collect, store and analyze scientific data - including data from spacecraft in orbit and deep space - and to evaluate new technologies. The machines were located at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena; Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.; Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M.; and the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington.