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Texas Man Admits to Hacking into NASA Servers Housing Satellite Data

In federal court in St. Paul, Minnesota, 26-year-old Jeremey Parker, of Houston, Texas pleaded guilty to hacking into computer networks at a Minnesota business and NASA.

Parker pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, and was indicted in Minnesota on October 13, 2010. Parker admitted that from 2008-2009, he hacked into the computer network of SWReg, Inc., a subsidiary of the cyber-based company Digital River, Inc., of Minnesota, in an effort to steal money. SWReg pays independent software developers who write code. Parker hacked into SWReg’s system, created the money by crediting the SWReg accounts, and wire transferred the money to his bank account instead of the accounts of several software developers. He made out with approximately $275,000.

In addition, Parker admitted that in September of 2009, that he hacked into two computer servers at the NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. The servers supported access to data being sent to Earth from satellites gathering oceanographic data. While the servers did not have any control over the satellites themselves, they allowed paying members of the scientific community to access the stream of data coming from those satellites. After a period of time, the data was freely available to anyone who wished to log onto a specific NASA website. Once the breach was discovered, NASA spent approximately $43,000 to repair the damage. During the time the website was down, approximately 3,300 users were denied access to the oceanographic data.

While Parker was not officially charged in connection with the NASA incident, the activity will be treated as relevant conduct for sentencing purposes in the District of Minnesota. Parker faces a potential maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on the wire fraud charge and 10 years on the computer hacking charge.

The Minnesota case is the result of an FBI investigation, and the Maryland case was investigated by the NASA Office of Inspector General.

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