Romanian Citizen Charged with Causing $500,000 in Damages by Hacking into NASA Computers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory

February 8 2012

LOS ANGELES – A federal grand jury has indicted a Romanian citizen for hacking into the computers of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, 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 yesterday 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.

As a result of Butyka’s alleged conduct, 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. 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 yesterday 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.

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

The case was investigated by NASA’s Office of the Inspector General, Computer Crimes Division.

CONTACT: Assistant United States Attorney Erik M. Silber

Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section

(213) 894-2231

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