Less than half of IT professionals believe that if found guilty alleged hacker Gary McKinnon should be sent to a US prison, a recent poll suggests.

The survey, conducted by Sophos, found that 48 per cent of respondents consider jail the most fitting ruling for the 40-year-old Scot should he be found guilty by the US authorities.

More than a third (42 per cent) of those workers surveyed said community service is an appropriate punishment and ten per cent believe the former computer systems administrator should be fined.

McKinnon is accused of hacking into 97 US government computers in 2001, including those of the Pentagon, US army, air force and NASA.

The US authorities claimed that he committed the “biggest military computer hack of all time” and caused around $700,000 (£400,000) worth of damage. He could face up to 60 years in prison if convicted following his extradition.

"The IT community can't seem to agree about what would be an appropriate punishment in this case, quite possibly because it's still unclear about how much damage McKinnon is believed to have caused, as well as the motivations behind the alleged crime," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos.

"Some of the system administrators we polled seem to be so fed up with hackers that they've said they're keen to have McKinnon executed," he added. "It's important for people to remember that there is a difference between oddballs that don't appear to have engaged in hacking activities for financial gain and criminal gangs who are having an impact on businesses and consumers across the globe."