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US charges British hacker over NASA and army -

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TONY EASTLEY: American authorities have charged a British man for allegedly hacking highly sensitive US government computer systems.

It's alleged the 28-year-old hacked agencies including NASA and the US army.

Three alleged co-conspirators, two of whom are thought to be living in Australia, have not been charged at this stage.

Europe correspondent Mary Gearin reports from London.

MARY GEARIN: According to the federal indictment released by US authorities, 28-year-old Lauri Love allegedly had this reaction to infiltrating the NASA network in an instant message to one of his co-conspirators.

(Actor's voice): Ahaha, we owning lots of NASA sites.

MARY GEARIN: US attorney Paul Fishman says Love and three unnamed conspirators, two of whom are believed to live in Australia, allegedly intended to disrupt the operations and infrastructure of the US government.

Love allegedly infiltrated systems including those of the US army, Missile Defense Agency, Environmental Protection Agency and NASA - resulting in millions of dollars in losses.

According to the indictment, in July this year, Love wrote this to one of his co-conspirators:

(Actor's voice): This stuff is really sensitive. It's basically every piece of information you'd need to do full identity theft on any employee or contractor for the agency.

MARY GEARIN: It's claimed they engaged in this hacking from October last year and prosecutors say the alleged scheme endangers the security of the US and is an affront to those who serve.

Love was arrested in the UK by officers of the National Crime Agency and released on bail till early next year, under a crime act allowing arrests for the launching of attacks from within the UK against computers across the globe.

He's also been charged in New Jersey because he used a server there.

David Livingstone is associate fellow at UK think tank Chatham House, specialising in cyber security. He says if proven, such infiltrations are worrying.

DAVID LIVINGSTONE: Well I think this is a concern because what it does show is that there's much to do in terms of protecting systems from people who have IT expertise.

MARY GEARIN: David Livingstone says this prosecution does illustrate the level of international coordination on cyber security is improving.

DAVID LIVINGSTONE: Well it's quite significant. Previously we've seen quite a lot of work in western Europe and even in the you know eastern European states - Ukraine and Lithuania, France, Germany and so on - and Britain. This is spanning both Europe now and also halfway around the globe to Australia.

MARY GEARIN: Is it fair to say there's a bit of a blitz on, if you like, globally against this sort of activity?

DAVID LIVINGSTONE: Well I think everyone's perceptions are being highlighted by all sorts of cyber-security issues at the moment, and sometimes it sounds a little bit like the sequel to Burn Before Reading, a film I rather enjoy, where we've got the NSA and GCHQ and Merkel and everyone seems to be bugging and intercepting everyone else's telephone calls and emails and things like that.

I think this is the feature of cyber-security at the moment is - it's a huge, I think there is now a growing understanding that there is a huge complexity involved in establishing even, you know, international norms about what is acceptable behaviour, where the red lines are over which you cannot start to tread.

TONY EASTLEY: David Livingstone, who specialises in cyber security at the UK think tank Chatham House. Mary Gearin our correspondent there.