In early 1994, technicians at a US Air Force laboratory complex called the "Rome Labs" at Griffiss Air Force Base in the state of New York, discovered that an illegal wiretap programme called a "Sniffer" had been installed on one of their computer networks. A “Sniffer” is used by hackers to the capture the passwords of authorized computer users. The Rome Labs were paralysed for about three weeks. Investigators traced some of the intrusions to a computer hacker group called "The Legion of Doom". Monitoring of further events revealed that one of the hackers in question used the nickname “Datastream Cowboy”. The hacker routed his calls through South America to disguise his activities but was eventually traced to North London. Soon the British authorities were monitoring his phone line.
On 12 May 1994, the police raided his house, expecting to find a sophisticated practitioner of espionage. "Datastream Cowboy" proved to be a 16 year-old school boy who liked to hack into American military sites 'because they were so insecure’. It turned out he had launched his attacks with a small 486 SX desktop computer. He and his fellow hacker “Kuji” had been searching for evidence of anti-gravity propulsion systems that they saw as proof of the existence of UFOs and the secret exploitation of alien technology. Together they had managed to penetrate dozens of military systems across North American and Europe, including SACEUR's SHAPE Headquarters at Mons.
"Datastream Cowboy" was prosecuted in 1996 for offences under the Computer Misuse Act. The case raised interesting issues about the presentation of evidence from American covert agencies in a British court. Peter Sommer, an expert in electronic privacy and digital forensics at the London School of Economics, offered expert advice to the defence team.