A London schoolboy who hacked into computers at a top-secret weapons laboratory in the United States sparked a nuclear panic, a court heard today.
Joseph McElroy, 18, forced scientists to shut down the weapons installation for three days after he used a sophisticated programme to break into 17 computers at the US Department of Energy’s Fermi Nuclear Laboratory.
The DOE, responsible for the safety of America’s nuclear weapons, tracked McElroy to his family home in Woodford Green and informed Scotland Yard.
McElroy, now a first-year student at Exeter University, admitted he used the computer system – but only to get free online videos and music.
He pleaded guilty to “unauthorised modification” of the contents of a computer and returns for sentence in three weeks.
Sean Larkin, prosecuting, told Bow Street Magistrates’ Court how the attack sparked a full-scale alert at the laboratory.
Mr Larkin said: ” Initially the United States took this matter very seriously because of the nature of the laboratory and the fact it deals with nuclear weapons.”
But he added: “He did not hack into the classified section and there was no danger or risk to public safety at all.”