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Big data and computer hacking: cybercrime charges unsealed

This is the age of big data. As we discussed two weeks ago, in our October 14 post, the digital capacity available today makes the original Star Trek series look like child's play.

With so much data collection going on, it is therefore important for society to develop guidelines for when and how the information can be used. And it is of course a given that Fourth Amendment privacy protections must be maintained.

When so much data is collected, it also becomes more suspeptible to access by computer hackers. In a criminal hacking case announced this week, authorities have unsealed indictments in New Jersey and Virginia with federal cybercrime charges against a group of British hackers.

U.S. authorities allege that the hackers gained access to sensitive computer systems at two different federal government agencies. One agency was the Environmental Protection Agency (EPAP. The other was the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

According to the indictment, the hackers stole both personal data on government workers and military intelligence information. Last week, authorities arrested the 28-year-old British man who is at the center of the allegations.

The alleged hacking into computers at the EPA and NASA is not the only hacking alleged against the man. Authorities also say he gained access to two other federal agencies, as well as a laboratory for computer forensics and even the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

The FBI contends that the man hacked into computers at the Sentencing Commission last December. In that case, authorities say, the hacking was not to steal information but to add it: a video critical of federal sentencing guidelines on Internet crimes.

Source: Bloomberg, "U.K. Hacker Is Charged With Theft of Data From U.S. Army," David Voreacos, Oct. 28, 2013

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