He called himself The Iceman, and he hacked into some of the more sensitive computers in the realm of U.S. space and defense systems — those at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

So says the U.S. Attorney's Office, which today announced that a federal grand jury has turned up the heat on The Iceman, a.k.a. Robert Butyka, with an indictment charging the Romanian citizen with “unauthorized impairment of a protected computer.”

But the allegation is actually more serious than it sounds:

Feds say in a statement that Butyka hacked …

… into 25 NASA computers at JPL in December 2010. The computers were part of the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder Program, which is used to support climate research and improve weather forecasting.

As a result of Butyka's alleged conduct, researchers were unable to use the computers for more than two months while NASA removed the malicious code in the machines, restored data and took steps to prevent further access by hackers. NASA sustained more than $500,000 in damages …

Lucky for us the Romanian government nabbed him, prosecuted him and sentenced him to three years behind bars last month for his cyber deeds.

So why the indictment, returned by a grand jury yesterday?

Not sure. Seems like a bit of overkill to us.

But the U.S. Attorney's Office in L.A. does note that, under the federal charge, Butyka could see 10 years behind bars, which means he could still go from a Romanian prison to an American one if he's successfully prosecuted here.

[@dennisjromero / djromero@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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