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Computer Hacker Sentenced to 21 Months

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A computer hacker from Mission Viejo was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison Monday for breaking into high-security systems at NASA and several universities and for using stolen credit card numbers to obtain money and merchandise over the Internet.

Jason Allen Diekman, 21, hacked his way into some systems while out on bail after his first wave of computer break-ins.

“I really apologize,” Diekman told U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson as he appeared for sentencing in Los Angeles federal court. Pregerson ordered the defendant to pay nearly $88,000 in restitution. Diekman promised to return to college when he gets out of prison and “do something productive with my life.”

For three years after his release, Diekman will be barred from using a computer without the consent of his federal probation officer.

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He was sentenced in three separate computer hacking cases.

In November 2000, he pleaded guilty to hacking into government computers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena and NASA computers at Stanford University. The intrusions caused $17,000 in damage.

Using the names “Shadow Knight” and “Dark Lord,” Diekman gained root-level access to JPL computers, giving him control over all aspects of the computer systems, including the ability to modify files and alter security settings, said Assistant U.S. Atty. Arif Alikhan, head of the prosecutor’s computer crimes section.

During the investigation into the NASA case, Diekman admitted that he had hacked into “hundreds, maybe thousands” of computers, including systems at Harvard, Cornell, UCLA, UC San Diego and Cal State Fullerton, Alikhan said. He also stole credit card numbers, using them to acquire more than $6,000 worth of electronics gear.

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While free on bond after pleading guilty in the first case, Alikhan said, Diekman used his home computer to gain unauthorized access 33 times last year to computers at Oregon State University.

During that same period, Diekman again used stolen credit card numbers. This time, he arranged to have money wired to him through Western Union. One transfer was interrupted by Western Union before it reached Diekman, and the other two were not authorized by the issuing credit card companies, Alikhan said.

The prosecutor said Diekman was caught in the Western Union fraud by investigators from AT&T.; Diekman later admitted stealing more than 8,000 minutes of service from the long-distance provider. While investigating their loss, AT&T; security personnel recorded Diekman discussing details of the Western Union scheme with acquaintances and turned the tapes over to the FBI.

The young computer whiz was rearrested in April and has been held without bail since then.

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In the third case, Diekman pleaded guilty in September to charges of hacking into the computer system of Bay Area Internet Solutions Inc. of San Jose, where he caused more than $50,000 in damage, Alikhan said.


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