IT workers back hacker in extradition battle

Among IT workers, the jury is no longer out in the extradition case of Gary McKinnon, the Briton who hacked 97 US state computers as a jobless administrator.

Despite a High Court ruling on Friday that paves the way for him to faces charges in Virginia, about seven out of 10 British IT workers say he should stand trial in the UK.

Seventy-one per cent of UK techies disagreed that extradition was 'a lawful and proportionate response to his offending', as ruled by Lord Justice Stanley Burnton and Mr Justice Wilkie.

The finding is testament, partly, to the PR and media campaign waged by the 'super-hacker,' as the previous poll showed the IT community was divided about his fate.

In 2006, five years after McKinnon breached US military networks, the same poll found just 52 per cent of IT workers thought he should be saved from extradition.

Forty-eight per cent would presumably welcome the High Court judges' ruling, comprised of almost as many pages, as they said his crime warranted a Supermax facility in the US.

Since then, the 42-year-old has been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, which his relatives fear may trigger a suicide attempt if US authorities hand him a 60-year jail sentence.

Alongside the PR effort, and claims he only accessed federal PCs because he was curious about records on UFOs, the diagnosis has helped soften IT workers' view of the case.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, which ran the poll, said: "McKinnon has had tremendous support from hackers and ordinary people throughout this saga – but what is truly staggering is the support he has received from the IT community.

"The consensus is that it is perhaps inappropriate to make an example of a UFO conspiracy theorist when serious crimes are still being carried out by financially-motivated hackers, stealing identities, sending spam and creating botnets."

Yet US authorities allege that 'Solo,' as McKinnon was known online, caused nearly $1million dollars in damage, and shut down systems responsible for the tracking the location of naval ships, and the protection of Washington DC.

Mr Cluley said: "Of course a strong message must be sent out to hackers that their activities are unacceptable, but there is arguably a difference between McKinnon and cyber-criminals who are in it for the money.

"The question is; how many more appeals do McKinnon and his numerous supporters have left before his unwilling departure from Heathrow airport?"

McKinnon, who was not present at Friday's ruling, said in a reported statement that he would appeal against extradition in the House of Lords or the European Court of Human Rights.

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