A hacker who broke into US military computers has lost his High Court appeal against extradition to the US.
London resident Gary McKinnon, who said he hacked into the US computers in a search for evidence of UFOs, remains on bail and could take his appeal to the House of Lords, a High Court spokesperson said.
McKinnon is accused of deleting data and accessing information on 97 US military and NASA computers between February 2001 and March 2002. He was charged in the US courts and could face a sentence of up to 60 years in prison.
The hacker challenged an initial US extradition bid in May 2006. His lawyer fought the extradition attempt on the grounds that his client could be held as an "enemy combatant", a status the US created for terrorism suspects. But home secretary John Reid approved the extradition order, prompting the new appeal.
McKinnon freely admits to hacking into the computers but says he never caused any harm. But US officials say his probes caused £350,000 in damages and the shutdown of critical computers used by the military after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001.
The soft-spoken McKinnon said he timed his hacking for when no one was working at the US offices. On one occasion he miscalculated the time zones, however, and someone using a computer that McKinnon had hacked noticed the cursor moving on its own.
McKinnon used a program called "RemotelyAnywhere" to control the computers. Many of the computers he accessed were set up with their default passwords, which made them easy to access, said McKinnon, who spoke at a security conference in London last year while his appeal was under way.
McKinnon was not available for comment after the appeal hearing.