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MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — An airman first class with the 35th Communications Squadron was sentenced to 10 days of confinement and reduced in rank to E-2 for trying to hack into personal computer files on base.

James A. Stout, formerly a technician in the base’s Network Control Center, also will forfeit two-thirds of his pay and allowances for one month.

Stout pleaded guilty in a summary court-martial Thursday to violating Air Force instruction governing transmission of information by the Internet, and to breaking a federal law by intentionally accessing a computer without authorization.

While working on a government computer during an overnight shift on Dec. 3, 2004, Stout downloaded two hackers’ programs from the Internet in an attempt to decrypt the base’s user name and password file, giving him access to all base user accounts, including e-mail, according to prosecutor Capt. Jason Spence of the 35th Fighter Wing’s Office of the Staff Judge Advocate.

He copied it to a second computer and ultimately uploaded the user name and password file and a decryption program onto a personal Web server via the Internet, the prosecutor said.

He was caught after Pacific Air Forces’ Network Operations Security Center, which monitors Internet traffic, notified the base of a possible intrusion into its computer system, Spence said. Three communications squadron airmen traced Stout back to the government computer during the time of the incident by reviewing security log-ins, Spence said.

Stout never succeeded in breaking the code, having deleted the file and decryption programs from his government computers and Web server in the same work shift after he became aware that PACAF had notified the Network Control Center of the problem.

Stout claimed he was bored and wanted to access his supervisor’s account to grant himself higher computer rights that he could use on the job to fix network problems, Spence said. He also said he wanted to see other parts of the network, including personal computer files, such as e-mail.

When Stout transferred the Misawa files from his government computer to a personal Web server over the Internet, “a third-party person — foreign government, terrorist, hacker — could have taken our password file and copied it to their own computer while it was in transit,” possibly allowing them to access Misawa’s unclassified database, Spence said in court. If a third party obtained access and deleted that file, “it would bring the mission to a halt — basically, everything is in there,” he said.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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