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   crack a nut'.8

  

   The prosecution was stunned and the law enforcement agents

   flabbergasted. Detective Sergeant Barry Donovan found the verdict

   bizarre. No other case in his 21 years in law enforcement had as much

   overwhelming evidence as this one, yet the jury had let Wandii walk.

  

   And in a high-pitched frenzy rivalling its earlier hysteria, the

   British media jumped all over the jury's decision. `Hacker who ravaged

   systems walks free', an indignant Guardian announced. `Computer Genius

   is cleared of hacking conspiracy', said the Evening Standard. `Hacking

   "addict" acquitted', sniffed The Times. Overpowering them all was the

   Daily Telegraph's page one: `Teenage computer addict who hacked White

   House system is cleared'.

  

   Then came the media king-hit. Someone had leaked another story and it

   looked bad. The report, in the Mail on Sunday, said that the three

   hackers had broken into a Cray computer at the European Centre for

   Medium Range Weather Forecasting at Bracknell. This computer, likes

   dozens of others, would normally have been relegated to the long list

   of unmentioned victims except for one thing. The US military used

   weather data from the centre for planning its attack on Iraq in the

   Gulf War. The media report claimed that the attack had slowed down the

   Cray's calculations, thus endangering the whole Desert Storm

   operation. The paper announced the hackers had been `inadvertently

   jeopardising--almost fatally--the international effort against Saddam

   Hussein' and had put `thousands of servicemen's lives at risk'.9

  

   Further, the paper alleged that the US State Department was so

   incensed about British hackers' repeated break-ins disrupting Pentagon

   defence planning that it had complained to Prime Minister John Major.

   The White House put the matter more bluntly than the State Department:

   Stop your hackers or we will cut off European access to our satellite

   which provides trans-Atlantic data and voice telecommunications.

   Someone in Britain seemed to be listening, for less than twelve months

   later, authorities had arrested all three hackers.

  

   Pad thought the allegations were rubbish. He had been inside a VAX

   machine at the weather centre for a couple of hours one night, but he

   had never touched a Cray there. He had certainly never done anything

   to slow the machine down. No cracking programs, no scanners, nothing

   which might account for the delay described in the report. Even if he

   had been responsible, he found it hard to believe the Western allies'

   victory in the Gulf War was determined by one computer in Berkshire.

  

   All of which gave him cause to wonder why the media was running this

   story now, after Wandii's acquittal but before he and Gandalf were

   sentenced. Sour grapes, perhaps?

  

   For days, columnists, editorial and letter writers across Britain

   pontificated on the meaning of the Wandii's verdict and the validity

   of an addiction to hacking as a defence. Some urged computer owners to

   take responsibility for securing their own systems. Others called for

   tougher hacking laws. A few echoed the view of The Times, which

   declared in an editorial, `a persistent car thief of [the hacker's]

   age would almost certainly have received a custodial sentence. Both

   crimes suggest disrespect for other people's property ... the jurors

   may have failed to appreciate the seriousness of this kind of

   offence'.10