Friday 14 January 2011

Computer was teenage Assange's 'only friend'

Fascinating story in The Age about a 1996 court case in Melbourne involving WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who pleaded guilty to computer hacking charges.

The transcript of the case was released to The Age yesterday. It reveals that Assange's mother bought him his first computer when he was 13 or 14. ''That computer, in effect, became his only friend and his only interaction with the outside world,'' his lawyer, Paul Galbally, told the Victorian County Court, depicting his client as having been a lonely teenager.

The charges came five years after Assange hacked into computer servers belonging to RMIT, Northern Telecom, the Australian Telecommunications Corporation and the Australian National University.

Assange pleaded guilty to 24 offences before Judge Leslie Ross, who said the crimes were ''quite serious'' and ''troublesome behaviour''.

Assange was said to be the ''ringleader'' of a small organisation of three - himself and two co-accused, described by the prosecutor as being ''looksee'' hackers whose motive was ''simply an arrogance and a desire to show off computer skill''.

In 1991, the band of three hacked the various computer systems and together compiled International Subversive, an instructional magazine on how to hack and how to phreak (illegal use of telephone systems). It was distributed only among themselves.

Assange was released on a three-year recognisance order of $5000 and with a compensation order of $2100 to the Commonwealth.

Judge Ross said that if the hacking had been for personal gain, a jail sentence would have been the only option, but he declined to release Assange on a bond without conviction. ''I think offences of this kind ought to be a mark on his record.''

Via Greg Mitchell's blog

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