Born: February 10, 1966 – Glasgow, Scotland
Gary McKinnon spent his earliest years in Scotland and at age 14 got his first computer. From there he quickly learned the Basic computing language, and between the ages of 14 and 17 was totally “obsessed” with computers doing everything from writing his own games to exploring AI.
After a stint at the University of North London, in which he failed out of the institution, he began a career in IT and in 2000 started hacking.
McKinnon’s hacking exploits would begin with running a port scanner, identifying machine types, and finding open ports. From there he would make entry into systems he claims were so poorly protected that he would see other hackers from places as far flung as Turkey, China and Holland on the very same networks. In fact, in many cases McKinnon said that the local admin passwords were left blank.
Beginning in early 2001 and up through March of 2002, he began hacking into computers belonging to The Pentagon, NASA and U.S military networks like the Army, Navy and Air Force.
His hacking handle was “Solo.”
Legendarily, he did the majority of his hacking from his girlfriend’s aunt’s house, using a 56k modem whilst drinking beer and smoking weed.
His motivation for hacking into U.S. military systems and NASA was to look for evidence of the existence of UFOs and suppressed technology, which he believed were being concealed by the United States government. He also appears to have taken political aim at the United States posting the following note/thread on one hacked system: “US foreign policy is akin to Government-sponsored terrorism these days … It was not a mistake that there was a huge security stand down on September 11 last year … I am SOLO. I will continue to disrupt at the highest levels …”
In November of 2002 he was indicted by the U.S. government for 97 hacks facing a maximum prison term of 60 years and fines of up to $1.75 million–the damage estimates were said to be around $700,000. Ultimately an order of extradition to the United States was made in July of 2006.
McKinnon successfully fought off the extradition requests and in October of 2012, then Home Secretary, Theresa May, withdrew the extradition order citing the fact that McKinnon had Asperger’s syndrome, suffered from “depressive illness” and that “extradition would give rise to such a high risk of him ending his life that a decision to extradite would be incompatible with Mr McKinnon’s human rights.”
- Security was so bad on some of the systems he broke into that he would sometimes leave notes for the sys admins saying “Your security is awful.”
- He was inspired to hack into places like NASA after reading literature from The Disclosure Project that claimed anti-gravity was real.
- In 2009, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd fame released a song about McKinnon called “Chicago – Change the World.”
- Since his hacking days he has started a small SEO consulting business called Small SEO.
Sources Used For This Article:
- Medium.com – Interview with UFO hacker Gary McKinnon
- The Guardian – Hacker warned over visiting ill father in Glasgow over possible extradition risk
- Gov.UK – Theresa May statement on Gary McKinnon extradition
- BBC News – Hacker Gary McKinnon turns into a search expert
- The Independent – Gary McKinnon: Inside the head of a super hacker