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British National Charged in Hacking of US Government Networks

Briton Charged in Hacking of US Government Networks

WASHINGTON - A British national has been indicted on charges of hacking into the computer systems of the US Army, Missile Defense Agency, NASA and other agencies, American officials said Monday.

A federal grand jury in New Jersey charged Lauri Love, 28, of Stradishall, England, with illegally accessing a US agency computer and conspiracy, according to a Justice Department statement.

Officials said Love was arrested at his home on Friday by British police.

The indictment alleges Love and his unnamed co-conspirators hacked into thousands of computer systems between October 2012 and October 2013.

Once inside, Love and others placed hidden "shells" or "back doors" within the compromised networks, which allowed them to return to the systems and steal confidential data.

The stolen data included the personally identifying information of military service personnel and others, the charges state.

"Computer intrusions present significant risks to national security and our military operations," said Daniel Andrews, director of the US Army Criminal Investigation Command.

According to prosecutors, Love and his conspirators planned and executed the attacks in online chat forums known as Internet relay chats, or "IRC."

The statement said the conspirators wanted to "steal large quantities of non-public data," in order to "disrupt the operations and infrastructure of the United States government."

In one chat cited in the indictment, Love, using the online handle "peace" said the plan could steal "basically every piece of information you'd need to do full identity theft on any employee or contractor" of the US government.

Prosecutors said the attacks caused "millions of dollars" in damages, but did not elaborate.

A criminal complaint against Love related to the actions is also pending in Virginia, the Justice Department said.

If convicted, he five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, on each of the two counts.

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