SAN FRANCISCO -- A pair of teen-age hackers who once boasted of breaking into the computer systems of more than 200 university, military and government institutions have pleaded guilty to federal charges.
The unidentified Cloverdale youths were 15 and 16 when the breaches were uncovered in February. After Wednesday's pleas, they likely will be sentenced to probation that will limit their access to computers with modems.
The two boys admitted to hacking military, government and university computers as well as installing wiretaps to intercept passwords, U.S. Attorney Michael Yamaguchi said. Exact charges were sealed.
The intrusions could have disrupted military communications throughout the world, he said. Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre called the assaults "the most organized and systematic attack" to date on Pentagon systems.
Tipped off by a Sonoma County Internet provider, FBI agents seized the boys' computers in late February. An Israeli hacker who identified himself as "Analyzer" claimed he orchestrated the assault by coaching the two teens.
After a joint investigation by the FBI and Israeli investigators, Ehud Tenenbaum, 18, admitted to breaking into Pentagon computers himself, the FBI has said.
Tenenbaum, who claimed he simply wanted to expose the weaknesses of the Pentagon system, was arrested in March but has not been charged. He since has appeared in an advertisement for the Israeli computer company EIM and has been inundated by offers for book and movie deals.
One of the teens admitted to breaking into a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory computer in February. The other pleaded guilty to illegally accessing an Air Force computer, prosecutors said. They allegedly went by the names "Makaveli" and "TooShort."
Both admitted to placing "sniffers" -- the wiretaps that let them intercept passwords -- on a number of computers. They also said they designed programs that gave them complete access to the computers, then destroyed log files to cover their trails.
In a March interview with the Internet magazine AntiOnline, Makaveli, a Cloverdale High School student, claimed to hacking more than 200 institutions. "It's power, dude. You know, power," he said.
Both teens pleaded guilty to committing acts of juvenile delinquency and could have faced custody until their 21st birthdays, Assistant U.S. Attorney Albert Glenn said.
However, under recommended conditions of probation, the youths would have limited, supervised access to computer modems and would not be allowed to use a modem at home.
They would also be banned from computer jobs during probation, Glenn said.
No sentencing date was set by U.S. District Judge Maxine M. Chesney. Chris Andrian and Edward Pliska, attorneys for the youths, did not return phone calls from The Associated Press.
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