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British hacker charged with stealing personal data from US soldiers

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Military personnel salute during the Pledge of Allegiance prior to President Barack Obama's address to military personnel who have recently returned from Afghanistan at Fort Campbell, Ky. AP photo Military personnel salute during the Pledge of Allegiance prior to President Barack Obama's address to military personnel who have recently returned from Afghanistan at Fort Campbell, Ky. AP photo

By Pete Williams and Jonathan Dienst

(NBC) - A man living in England has been arrested on charges of hacking into U.S. government computer systems, including the networks of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency and the U.S. Army, and stealing massive amounts of confidential personal data in order to "disrupt the operations and infrastructure of the United States government."

In one chatroom message quoted by prosecutors, defendant Lauri Love told an alleged co-conspirator, "This stuff is really sensitive … It's basically every piece of information you'd need to do full identify theft on any employee or contractor."

Love also allegedly said, "You have no idea how much we can f__— with the U.S. government if we wanted to."

Paul Fishman, U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, said that Love and his alleged co-conspirators "hacked into thousands of networks," including many belonging to the U.S. military and other government agencies.
 
"As part of their alleged scheme," said Fishman, "they stole military data and personal identifying information belonging to servicemen and women. Such conduct endangers the security of our country and is an affront to those who serve."

Love, 28, of Stradishall, England, was arrested by British law enforcement at his home Friday and charged in federal court in New Jersey. He was indicted on a separate charge in the Eastern District of Virginia.

Prosecutors say that between October 2012 and October 2013, Love and his fellow hackers met in secure online chat forums to plot attacks on U.S. government computers. They allegedly launched attacks that placed computer malware in the U.S. systems, allowing them to return later through hidden "back doors" and steal confidential data.

The systems infiltrated belonged to the U.S. Army, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, the Army's Aberdeen Proving Grounds, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The indictment alleges that Love had at least three unindicted coconspirators in Australia and Sweden.

Using the name "peace," Love allegedly said in a chat room message that, "We might able to get at real confidential s___." In another exchange, he and a coconspirator allegedly talk about stealing 400,000 emails. In yet another, Love
allegedly says, "We own NASA … I think we can do some hilarious stuff with it."

Love was charged as part of an investigation conducted jointly by the FBI and the U.S. Army's Criminal Investigation Command. He was arrested by British authorities as part of their own ongoing investigation.

"This investigation shows the necessity and value of strong partnerships among law enforcement agencies worldwide in the fight against cyber criminals," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford. "Cybercrime knows no boundaries, and without international collaboration, our efforts to dismantle these operations would be impossible."

In New Jersey, Love faces one count of accessing a U.S. government computer without authorization and one count of conspiracy. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count. In Virginia, he has been charged with one count of conspiracy for alleging hacking into computers belonging to the Health and Human Services Department, the Department of Energy and the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

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