Jonathan James Hacked Nasa and Pentagon in age of 15

World’s First Underage Cracker Jonathan James Hacked Nasa and Pentagon at age of 15

At 15 years old, many of us were playing video games, kicking a ball, trying to have our first romantic relationship, or just getting angry with the world, but Jonathan James 15 hacked into NASA and put the United States Pentagon in a tremendous predicament.

Between June and October 1999, one of the most incredible episodes in the history of computer crimes took place. The United States Department of Defense (DoD) discovered a series of intrusions into private companies, school systems, as well as the DoD itself, and even NASA. The interesting thing about all this is that these intrusions were the work of a young man barely 15 years old.jonathan james hacked nasa pentagon in age of 15

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Jonathan Joseph James goes down in the history books as the first underage cracker (for practical purposes we’ll refer to him as ‘hacker’) to be sentenced for cybercrimes in the United States.

Early Life of Jonathan James

He was born on December 12, 1983, in a small, as we would say, “urban village” of Pinecrest, located in Miami-Dade County, Florida. The city has a population of just over 18,000, but despite this, he publishes his newspaper, The Pinecrest Tribune, twice a month. Also in the town of Pinecrest is the landscape known for its status as “South Florida Arts and Culture Park.” Occupying a modest seven and a half square miles, this town is perhaps not remarkable in the eventful history of the United States. Well, aside from being home to one of the most talented hackers in North America.

Jonathan grew up in the most ordinary family by American standards: his father, Robert James, was a programmer, his mother was a housewife. At the age of six, he became interested in computers and regularly sat at the keyboard of his father’s home machine, playing games. In interviews published after the death of his son, Robert James recalled that he repeatedly installed various parental controls on the PC, because Jonathan was stuck on the screen all night, which negatively affected his studies at school. But he always looked for ingenious ways to get around the restrictions imposed by his parents.

This was young Jonathan James’s first hacking experience. With age, the boy’s interests gradually changed: having played enough games, he gradually began to learn the C language. Once, Jonathan surprised his father: After returning from work, he found that his offspring had taken Windows together. with all the software on his personal computer and then he had installed Linux there to test an unknown operating system and understand how it works.

When Jonathan was 13 years old, his passion for high technology seemed to his parents too painful and dangerous for his health. At the family council, it was decided to take away the teenager’s computer, on which he spent most of his free time during the day and almost every night. In response, Jonathan ran away from his home and adamantly refused to return until he was given access back to the staff.

In an argument, the young man insisted that programming and video games do not affect his studies at school, where he invariably receives high marks. This, however, is not surprising: a little later it turned out that Jonathan had successfully hacked into the computer network of educational institutions in Miami-Dade County and had periodically corrected his report card scores. Around the same time, Jonathan James came up with the nickname C0mrade, under which he communicated with other hackers on forums and in personal correspondence.

A native of the city of Miami, Jonathan James, who operated under the pseudonym ‘C0mrade’, is considered one of the greatest hackers in history thanks to his great ability to access private systems for mere entertainment. Between June 29 and 30, Jonathan managed to break through NASA security and gain access to 13 computers from which he stole $1.7 million worth of software and information, prompting the agency to shut down its systems for 21 days, an action that would cost them $41,000 in repairs and losses.

It would later be discovered that the software ‘C0mrade’ stole was the source code that controlled critical survival elements within the International Space Station. According to NASA, this software made it possible to control the temperature and humidity inside the ISS, as well as other important elements of the physical environment. Due to the above, NASA decided to turn off everything and rewrite part of the source code, in addition to reinforcing the security of its systems.

By August 1999, Jonathan had already managed to break into the systems of the large telecommunications company BellSouth, the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and the Miami-Dade County school system, but what would cause the alerts of authorities to turn on, it would be an intrusion into the United States Department of Defense computers at the Pentagon.

Jonathan had become the first person in the world to crack the DoD by entering the system of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), a DoD division in charge of analyzing possible threats to the United States. But here the most interesting thing is how he had achieved all this.

Jonathan had found a backdoor on one of the servers in Dulles, Virginia, where he installed a sniffer that allowed him to spy on thousands of calls and messages, but his target was DTRA personnel. Between September and October 1999, he managed to intercept more than 3,000 messages between agency employees, messages that allowed him to obtain usernames and passwords that gave him access to 10 military computers.

The capture of the underage hacker

After several weeks of investigation, on January 26, 2000, agents from the DoD, NASA, and the Pinecrest Police Department finally obtained a warrant to enter Jonathan’s home and apprehend the hacker.

In September of that same year, Jonathan, already 16 years old, pleaded guilty to two charges of ‘juvenile delinquency’, since being a minor it was impossible to apply other types of charges, in addition to the fact that computer crimes were not yet fully criminalized in US law. It is estimated that if Jonathan had been an adult, he could have achieved a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and the payment of a fine of several thousand dollars in damages.

This is how Jonathan received a sentence of six months of house arrest, a ban on accessing computers for recreational use, probation until he turned 18, and the obligation to write letters of apology to both NASA and the DoD.

Jonathan would later mention in an interview that all of these moves were some kind of trophies.

“The government didn’t have much security on most of their computers. They don’t have real computer security, and the hardest part is getting them to figure that out. I know Unix and C like the back of my hand, and This is because I’ve studied a lot of books and been glued to a computer for all this time. The hard part isn’t getting in, this is about learning and knowing what you’re doing.”

Before his 18th birthday, Jonathan would violate the terms of his parole by testing positive for drug use, for which he was detained by the US Department of Marshalls. For the above, Jonathan was sentenced to spend six months in the Alabama juvenile correction center.

On May 18, 2008, Jonathan, 25, was found dead in the shower of his house with a gunshot wound to the head, here the investigations would point to a suicide. Jonathan had also left a note that included personal messages to his father, brother, and girlfriend, as well as passwords to his PayPal and MySpace accounts.

In the said note, details could also be read that would have led Jonathan to decide to take his own life.

“I have no faith in the ‘justice’ system. Perhaps my actions today, and this letter, will send a strong message to the public. Either way, I have lost control over this situation, and this is my only way to get it back.” .”

“Now, honestly, I have nothing to do with TJX. Even though Chris (Scott) and Albert Gonzalez are the most dangerous and destructive ‘hackers’ the feds have ever caught, I’m a much bigger target. juicy for public opinion than two random idiots. Such is life.”

“Remember, it’s not about what you gain or lose, it’s about what I gain or lose by sitting in prison for 20, 10, or even 5 years for a crime I didn’t commit, this is not my way of ‘win’, that’s why I prefer to die free.”

The following year, Robert James, his father, would break the silence by mentioning that Jonathan suffered from depression, however, he always considered him a very intelligent person. Despite this, she never managed to have a close relationship with him. Robert, who is also a programmer, admits that he always took a certain pride in what his son had accomplished for NASA and the DoD.

Robert James remembers Jonathan as a passionate geek who has loved using the family computers since he was 6 years old. When he was in high school he managed to delete Windows from the home computer to install Linux. Robert also mentions that he and his wife tried several times to set rules for Jonathan about the use of the computer at home since there came a time when he did not sleep because he was glued to the monitor.

On January 26, 2000, agents from the USDOD, NASA, and the Pinecrest Police Department arrested Jonathan on juvenile delinquency charges. Because he was a minor, he only received six months of house arrest. In 2007 he was charged with a banking crime, which included the theft of credit card numbers. The Secret Service eagerly sought to capture Jonathan for this crime, which was later discovered to have had nothing to do with it, but the stress caused by the intense government persecution and the depression he suffered from led him to take his own life on May 18, 2019. 2008.

Mr. James’s last conversation with Jonathan was after the Secret Service raid on his home. Robert would call his son to ask if they would find anything incriminating, to which Jonathan would only say “no”.