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Computer Security, McKinnon and a few other things ..

This is a patchwork of components of commentary and observation on the Gary McKinnon Extradition Case - when the case is finalised I may try to smooth it out a bit :-)


NEW CYBER SPOOK CENTRE FOR UK Looks like McKinnon's new job is already lined up eh? :-)

Basically this blog item is picking up on issues of the Gary McKinnon Extradition Case that I see as relevant to the arguments. There is a very active "FREE GARY" Lobby in the socialmedia, though the banner belies the actual intent. Like them, the view I've taken is that he should be tried here, though I am persuaded that there are people who disagree with that view who hold a perfectly rational stance ... Read on ....

A comment on 29th November 09 in response to something I read in click

It isn't clear to me that McKinnon has "spin doctors", who are they? He has on his side some believers in the fact that US extra-territoriality is in danger of becoming all pervasive. I am one of those.

Basically this guy did some irresponsible stuff. I know lots of geeks capable of doing the same. When they are discovered, they should be dealt with. We have a UK law and legal system that is capable of dealing with this, so why "export" him to a legal system that just seemingly wants retribution?

He didn't commit these offences in USA - he did it from a bedroom on south=east London so far as I recall. If the USA doesn't trust us - a major ally - to deal with this according to our own standards, then that's a problem in its own right.

McKinnon is guilty by his own admission of dabbling with stuff that was dangerous to do. The fact that THEIR system allowed it to occur is more of a crime on their part than it is on McKinnon's. If you build secure systems with flaky components, then expect the worst. And the "SOLO" escapade was by no means the worst that they could have got.

Solution: Try him here. If he's found guilty, lock him up in a secure establishment and have him use his supposed "super-hacker" skills on terrorist-proofing our own systems and if the US think he's so good, then lend his services as a penetration tester to them free of charge.

If he's not found guilty, then give him a job anyway, doing exactly the same thing. This guy is no terrorist AND he's no "super-hacker" either. I know a few dozen people who'd eat him for supper in the UK IT security community. I just don't want the US thirst for retribution to destroy him AND I don't think we should stand by while New Labour government treaties that were conceived in a hurry and born in a hurry, eat away at our own civil rights.

The US has apparently said in ANOTHER case, that if the defendant is found innocent, they'll snatch him when he's not in the UK. Can that be TRUE?

Home Sec refuses to Intervene

A Good Blog on the matter at

Current situation is that McKinnon has a hearing coming up soon to determine his right to appeal further against extradition. If this is denies proceedings will take him to a potentially angry (Lockerbie bomber inflamed) USA to face some significant charges in the realm of terrorism. No-one is denying he hacked NASA, Pentagon and some other sensitive sites, but sending him over there at this juncture is just plain wrong (that's my opinion of course, you may have your own).

It would also now appear that McKinnon has a claim not to be extradited under the European Human Rights act, which deals with his mental health as a result of all the extra stress 7 years of this whole business has inflicted upon him. We shall see how it goes. My gut-feel at this juncture (mid-Nov 09) is that he wont finally be extradited and that a trial here will find him guilty and sentence him leniently.

Follow the discussion on Twitter if you're interested ...

Also here's a current commentary on the matter ... CLICK!


This is where this blog item started back in the summer of '09 ...

Back in the 1980's I ran (along with my fellow directors) a company called Kernel Technology. We were at the frontline of exploitation of what became know as "Open Systems".
We had some fantastic staff and many of them have gone on to success and greatness under their own steam.
One of the Senior Techies (Phil Cracknell) went on to become something of a notorious expert in computer security and I just had (Saturday 1st August 09) an MSN conversation with him on the matter of McKinnon.

Today (7th Aug) I learned from his mother that McKinnon is not allowed to use the internet. S'pose that's sensible really - just never thought about it before. Also today I picked up a view that was contrary to mine ... "you cannot commit security breach against America and assume the right to trial in UK. Explain more on a blog", from a guy called djmacdonald21 on Twitter.

A friend of mine said on the matter today "he's british and a disabled person. He hacked the Pentagon to find UFOs ... What's not to like?"
I had an exchange though microblog with a chap called Rob Steadman ... ... who is quite avid in his views about hackers and calling McKinnon "scum" and people who want to campaign against his extradition "xenophobic". He - like all - is entitled to his views of course.

Can we rely on Uncle Obama to sort this out?
I read this on a bulletin board today and it sums up the "Obama/McKinnon Factor" for me:

"I feel sad to see this faith in Obama... because they will be disappointed. This is because Obama fears that if he is merciful, the right wing will attack him as weak on security, an enemy of the military and so forth... the whole business with the policeman and professor was in part because a remark he made that made people jump up and scream that he hates the police, he's a Democrat liberal who hates the police... they'll blow a fuse certainly if he intervenes for McKinnon..."

Here are some useful Q's & A's on the case so far ...

My view is developing as I go along:
* I'm naturally, because of what I do, opposed to hackers
* This guy did some wrong things - hacking is bad
* I don't think he's a terrorist
* I don't understand the effects of the Asperger's really, though I do know from a little experience in one relationship that it produces intense and compulsive behaviour and is often associated with super-intelligence
* I think our US friends need someone to use as a banner for badness
* I think if he is what they say he is "the most dangerous hacker of all time etc etc" we should ask them for proof of damage BEFORE we extradite him, if we ever do ...
*I feel that REVENGE and/or SHOWCASING is the main motive of the USA
* I feel that we're probably more obliged to them than they are to us on the matter of extradition - I hear that they don't send citizens abroad for trial - ever.
* I heard a recording of Obama this week saying that the American people (and us for that matter) had gone to war with a state that had nothing to do with 9/11. True of course. So how good is our judgement on this one?
* Obama will find it difficult to intervene, whatever he actually thinks is common sense
* I'm naturally an ally of the USA, though I don't think everything they do is therefore right and the biggest service I can render a brother is to tell them what I really think
* I think someone in UK Government, without understanding what they were doing, let him be exposed to extradition as a political sop to the US. Wouldn't be the first time we did their bidding would it?

Here's an article written by Boris Johnson in The Telegraph 8th Aug...

You want to know what the current treaty has to say?
The above link will take you to an item that explains the background of the treaty

And here's a view pointed my way by the said Rob Steadman, written ...

Here's the original clipping of that conversation I had with Phil last weekend [unedited] now minorly re-sequenced to deal with responses out of sequence for purposes of clarity:

MJB says:
Phil Cracknell says:
MJB says:
you chat a minute?
Phil Cracknell says:
briefly ye
MJB says:
The McKinnon case - you know about that?
Phil Cracknell says:
bits ye
MJB says:
sounds like he really got into the guts of about 100 computers in US defence environment
that's pretty advanced going I guess?
He's just lost the latest round of the bid to stop his extradition
Phil Cracknell says:
well once he was into one he was probably easily able to traverse the network because of implied trust on most defence networks
and they will estimate the worst
if he accessed one
they will have hammed it up
to make him sound better than he was
so they dont look as stupid and poor at security defence
MJB says:
do you think he should be extradited to face trial in US? (personal view)?
Phil Cracknell says:
no, no way, soft target
deal with UK gov
can you imagine them trying this with all the chinese people they tracked breaking in?
he's a scapegoat
MJB says:
That's what i think too
Phil Cracknell says:
this is just like the Kevin Mitnek case in the 90's
he was banned from ever being near a keyboard again
MJB says:
without using your name, would you mind if I used this conversation on my website?
Phil Cracknell says:
you can use my name! I'm off to Saudi
MJB says:
what nationality was Mitnek?
Phil Cracknell says:
MJB says:
You're not there (Saudi) already?
Phil Cracknell says:
UK seeing kids, fly on Monday, i came back Thur, after 20 days
cos of my Visa
got an employment Visa now
MJB says:
OK - if its OK with you I'm going to put this conversation on my blog
Phil Cracknell says:
no probs
I will sort what i can re backstopp -
MJB says:
Top man - can I remind them it was you that exposed Downing Street wireless network scam?
Phil Cracknell says:
MJB says:
OK - ta, be in touch
Phil Cracknell says:
not sure I still have the scanned clipping
it must be somewhere on the web
MJB says:
It was the Mirror wasn't it?
Phil Cracknell says:
Sunday Mirror
MJB says:
and what year?
Phil Cracknell says:
the day they found Hollie and that other little girl
11th i think
the two girls in the Man U kits are on the front page

Who is Phil?
Phil's a guy a rate very highly and he has had some direct touches with senior figures in government over the years. I put this up simply for the reason that people who are in the field of computer security will have insight about this case.

Sometime back I helped him to raise some sponsorship for a project to expose just how lax the City of London was with the encryption of wireless networks and somewhere around that time he did an expose on how insecure 10 Downing Street was, which reached the Sunday Mirror. Here's a link to Infosec that is associated with that incident

and here's another one!

Basically he says McKinnon is a scapegoat and I agree with him 100%.

In Summary (subject to change)
This whole case is really about whether the USA is a balanced enough environment since 9/11 to send a British Citizen there for trial on a charge that is anywhere near the sphere of terrorism. And I think they will regard this as in that sphere. If you want reference points about how they respond to such perceived threats, take Guantanamo as a reference point. OK - Obama wants that scrapped, but its a part of the psyche and its still there, not that I'm implying McKinnon would end up there!

If there is ANY doubt about the question of the balance of the environment into which McKinnon would find himself, the Home Secretary should intervene and stop it.

I think there is some doubt because I'm certain the right wing will want a showcase. They cant get at the malevolent far-eastern hackers who keep having a go at them, so lets have this Brit - he's available.

The History of Hacking link ...

To be continued ....

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Comment by Mike Briercliffe on August 12, 2009 at 11:22
Comment by Mike Briercliffe on August 12, 2009 at 11:21
From The LinkedIn site ... Conservative Party Group ...

My own view is that hackers are bad people and they should be prevented from doing it. It seems like this guy has a compulsion disorder and an acute brain that drives his habits, but he's still done bad things.

He should be judged in the context of the effect he's had and on the basis of his motives.

I don't think he was a terror perpetrator, though I'm sure he put the wind up the Americans at the time, just after 9/11.

I'm a natural ally of the US, though I have long been aware of their attitude to outside threats and I think sometimes they over-react. Guantanamo is just one piece of evidence that leads me to believe that as a nation they are capable of over-reaction outside of normal "Geneva" international thinking.

On balance, my view is that we should do a deal with the US to try him here. That would provide the best all round solution.

OR - on the basis that was a "cyber-crime", why not have a "cyber-trial"? At least that would stop the physical risk that this guy would otherwise be subject to.

We shall see.
Comment by Mike Briercliffe on August 8, 2009 at 18:29
This was a twitter exchange on Saturday 8rh August on the matter.

@mikejulietbravo sorry I had been trying to use the phrase criminal hacker and forgot on that occasion. Military hackers (ie those who work for government/security services etc) are more spies than hackers (IMHO even if they are doing the same thing). It is the fact that governments are doing this all the time makes McKinnon's story of no passwords even less likely - do you really believe Iraq, Iran, North Korea, China, etc hadn't tried? I'd like to see a list of all the other hacking he's done - I don't believe you accidentally, or evendeliberately, hack into NASA and Pentagon on your first hack. The damage he did and the xenophobia show he had bad intent but, even if he didn't it doesn't justify the hack: whether someone breaks into your house just to look or to steal they have still broken into your house and, assuming his no password story to be true (pah!) it is still not acceptable to enter a unlocked house, cause damage and leave rude/xenophobic messages. As fir the extradition: the law lords gave said there is no reason not to extradite and I see no reason to contradict them. The US judicial system is as fairas the UK system. It is not Zimbabwe or Saudi Arabia. He will receive a fair trial. I am alarmed at the lies and misinformation being put out by the Free Gary mob and find the blatant and occasionally hidden xenophobia contained in their statements distasteful and unacceptable but it does make the Daily Mail involvement more understandable. McKinnon committed crimes and was caught. He should now let justice run it's course. Personally I despise criminal hackers and if it were up to me I'd like him to rot in jail ( the damage, the xenophobia, the turning off of major defence systems) bit precedent suggests he is more likely to get between 5 and 10 years in total.

To which I responded:
A balanced response from me will start with my key assertion, which is that I DONT believe he'll get a fair trial. Any country that can do what has happened at Guantanamo immediately writes itself off my list of acceptably balanced judicial states.

Add to that the fact that I think he has a compulsion disorder (That's where the UFO thing and conspiracy theories came from) and that I dont believe he was out to wreck anything, but to simply to leave his mark as a challenge to those who supposedly protect our security, AND the fact that I think they just need a "score" against at least one hacker among the hundreds that have actually hacked them. The preceding leads me to question how balanced they could possibly be.

Then just think fleetingly about the overall security of prisoners in the system there and I have to fundamentally object to his extradition.

Overall I am a natural ally of the USA, but on many many things they have it wrong since 9/11 and I dont want a slightly unstable and potentially brilliant Brit to get it in the neck for the ills of their screwed-ip so called "secure" defence networks.

Respect your view though and respect your right to pronounce it.
Comment by David Hoggard on August 1, 2009 at 20:52
This was discussed on Question Time on R4on Friday evening. Huge round of applause for the suggestion that they should pay him rather than lock him up! Phil's right - this is bollox and he's a scapegoat. And I think they've picked the wrong guy. His Aspergers means that he simply shouldn't be in prison anywhere - certainly not the US.

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