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  Teen hacker lucky to escape jail
Updated 03 February 2004, 11.47
Teenage hacker Joseph McElroy
A schoolboy hacker who sparked a nuclear panic in the States has narrowly missed being sent to prison.

Joseph McElroy, from the UK, was just 16 when he hacked into a top secret weapons laboratory in America, while he was trying to download free films.

He boasted to his mates about what he'd done, and then so many of them logged on, that lab staff feared a terrorist attack and shut the computer down.

Joseph, who's now 19, was given 200 hours community service as punishment.

Special password

Joseph managed to get past the laboratory's security systems with some software he'd developed, which he called Deathserv.

He then used a special password to cover his tracks, but once his friends started copying him, the lab staff smelt a rat and Scotland Yard tracked him down.

The judge told Joseph he should "think himself lucky" that he did not go to jail.

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