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Latrobe teen gets 1 year of probation for hack

A 17-year-old computer hacker from Latrobe who disabled a worldwide video gaming Internet site must serve one year on probation, perform 250 hours of community service and repay Sony Corp. $5,000.

The sentencing order from Westmoreland County Judge John Driscoll for the 11th-grader at Greater Latrobe High School was obtained Wednesday by the Tribune-Review.

The teen in February was adjudicated delinquent, the juvenile court equivalent of a guilty verdict, of four felony counts for planting a computer virus that caused the Sony Entertainment Corp.'s gaming Web site to repeatedly crash Nov. 16-26, 2008.

Driscoll said a report by the juvenile probation department determined the teen led a normal life, was a good student and participated in school activities.

The investigation concluded that the teen may have developed an obsession about winning while spending an inordinate amount of time late at night playing computer games, according to Driscoll.

"This offense, by its very nature (which is similar to serious attacks against national cybersecurity), caused great alarm within Sony Corp. and the FBI. One would expect that anti-social or sociopathic individuals would commit such a computer crime; nevertheless, the juvenile seems to have accepted personal responsibility and agrees he should be held accountable," Driscoll wrote in his order.

Sony asked for more than $33,200 in restitution, but the judge ruled that amount would be too excessive for the teen.

The investigation, conducted by the FBI and Greensburg police Sgt. Robert Jones, determined the teen crippled Sony's online PlayStation site in retaliation for being kicked off the site for cheating while playing a war game called SOCOM U.S. Navy Seals. The teen used an at-home gaming console to compete against players around the world.

Jones testified in a hearing earlier this year that the teen used hacker tools to contact computers around the world that had been infected with a virus. Those computers were directed by the teen to clog three games on the PlayStation site, causing it to crash and go off-line.

The juvenile was found guilty of unlawful use of a computer, criminal use of a computer, computer trespassing and the distribution of a computer virus. State prosecutors agreed to withdraw 11 other related offenses, including those filed for a similar computer attack against Sony in March 2009.

The Tribune-Review does not routinely disclose the names of defendants in juvenile court.

Kyle Baxter, the boy's attorney, did not return a call seeking comment yesterday. Assistant District Attorney Kelly Hammers could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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