US Navy nuclear aircraft carrier sysadmin arrested on hacking charges

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A sysadmin who worked in the nuclear reactor department of a US warship has been charged with conspiring to hack into government systems during a digital joy ride that spanned several months in 2012. Nicholas Paul Knight, 27, who referred to himself as a “nuclear black hat,” was discharged from the Navy after he allegedly attempted to hack into a Naval database while at sea serving as a systems administrator in the nuclear reactor department aboard the USS Harry S. Truman.

Prosecutors have alleged that Nicholas Paul Knight, 27, of Chantilly, Virginia, and his co-accused, 20-year-old Daniel Trenton of Salem, Illinois, were leading members of a blackhat group called Team Digi7al.

Prosecutors say the pair, with help from other members of Team Digi7al, hacked the Navy’s SWM database, which held information about 220,000 Navy sailors. Others alleged targets included the US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, a military mapping agency, and the Los Alamos National Laboratory, a government-run developer that build the atomic bombs dropped during World War II.

Knight, from Virginia, is said to have learned how to to be a hacker at the age of 16 before enlisting in the US Navy, ending up as a systems administrator in the nuclear reactor department aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.

It is alleged that he used Navy computers to carry out “unlawful Team Digi7al activities” and prosecutors said he was discharged after being caught trying to hack a naval database whilst at sea.

Krueger is accused of “performing much of the technical hacking work for Team Digi7al. He lives in Salem, Illinois, and studied network administration at a local college. He is also alleged to have operated Team Digi7al’s Twitter account.

The US Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma said that “if convicted, Knight and Krueger face a maximum penalty of five years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine, in addition to paying restitution to the victims of the crime”.

A trial date has not been set yet.

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