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Hacking Doesn't Pay

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The Harvard graduate widely believed to have let loose a computer virus which incapacitated computers across the nation last year was indicted in July and could face up to five years in prison.

Robert T. Morris '87-'88, the ace computer hacker known by his initials RTM, is the first person charged under a 1986 federal computer crime statute. In addition to jail time, he could be hit with a fine of up to $250,000 if he is found guilty.

Morris's attorney said his client would plead "not guilty" to the charges.

The November virus infected 6000 computers around the nation and hit systems at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the U.S. Air Force Logistics Command, among others. Friends have said that Morris meant the virus to be a harmless prank but that it spiraled beyond his control.

Morris is currently under a one-year suspension from Cornell, where he is pursuing a graduate degree. That university issued a report last spring which said Morris was responsible for the virus but concluded that any punishment meted out to him should not be so harsh as to "permanently damage [his] career."

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