Romanian Man Indicted for Hacking into JPL Computers


A federal grand jury has indicted a Romanian citizen for hacking into the computers of NASA at Jet Propulsion Laborator in an attack that caused more than $500,000 in damage.

Robert Butyka, who used the moniker “Iceman,” 25, of Cluj-Napoca, Romania was indicted Monday on charges of hacking into 25 NASA computers at JPL in December 2010. The computers were part of the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder Program, which is used to support climate research and improve weather forecasting, according to a released statement from the Department of Justice.

Once NASA discovered their computers had been hacked, they shut them down to remove the malicious code in the machines, said Asst. U.S. Attorney Erik Silber, Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section.

Researchers were unable to use the computers for more than two months while NASA removed the malicious code in the machines, restored data and took steps to prevent further access by hackers.

The release stated NASA sustained more than $500,000 in damages, which includes the costs of completing the work on the computers and the time lost to scientific researchers.

NASA worked with Romanian authorities to investigate the matter. As a result of those cooperative efforts, Romania prosecuted and convicted Butyka. Last month, Butyka received a three-year prison sentence and seven years of probation in Romania for his illegal conduct.

The one-count indictment returned by the grand jury on Monday charges Butyka with unauthorized impairment of a protected computer. If he is convicted of the computer hacking offense, Butyka would face a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in a United States prison.

“He [allegedly] wasn’t trying to download any information,” Silber said.

Silber could not comment on this case specifically but did speak in general terms of another similar case.

“Often times [what we have seen] is people that [hack into systems, especially] a secured system, do this it for a [name or reputation] in the hacking community,” he said.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in court.