Hacker's pranks started out small

Friday, 12 September 2003, 11:18 AM EST

Investigators say his career as a computer hacker began more than a year ago when he saw a roommate typing her password and copied it.

By the time he was arrested in July, the 24-year-old graduate student had victimized more than 60 University of Michigan students and professors by stealing e-mail passwords, final exams and credit card numbers, investigators in the state Attorney General's Office said.

Once he had the credit card numbers, he didn't use them, investigators said.

"His motive was not clear and he did not understand what he was doing was felonious activity," Assistant Attorney General Kelly Carter said last week. "He found a way to manipulate people and get things that benefited him."

But defendant Ning Ma's attorney, Mark Hugger, said Ma is a "sincere and serious man who may have made mistakes in judgment but not with criminal intent."

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