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2 accused of hacking NASA site

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NEW YORK — A 15-year-old high school student and a 20-year-old man have been arrested and accused of hacking into NASA computers.

It was not clear whether the cases were linked.

The teen surrendered Tuesday for allegedly hacking into two NASA computers in Hampton, Va., and a third computer in Bethpage, N.Y. His name was not released by Suffolk County police.

Also, Raymond Torricelli, 20, was arrested at his New Rochelle home Wednesday and charged with breaking into two computers in NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and possessing stolen passwords. The lab is the base of NASA's robotic space exploration program, having launched missions to every planet except Pluto.

The teen hacker allegedly broke into the NASA computers in November. He was charged with computer tampering and released into his father's custody.

He allegedly defaced the NASA Web site by adding the message "SSH is coming," for the hacker name "Sesame Street Haxorz."

Police said he replaced system files with computer graffiti, including an image of the "Sesame Street" character Elmo.

Though he did not access sensitive or classified information, the teen, who said he was being tutored by another hacker online, caused about $5,000 in damage, said Special Agent James Jackson of NASA's Office of the Inspector General.

Meanwhile, investigators said they found 76,000 passwords on Torricelli's computer, including user names from computers owned by San Jose State University and Georgia Southern University.

Mary Beth Murrill, a spokeswoman for the Pasadena lab, declined to comment on the case but said security has since been improved.

Torricelli was released on $50,000 bail. If convicted of the most serious charge — unauthorized password possession — he faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.