Attackers who hit PayPal, MasterCard and other major firms in the name of Anonymous get jail time
Two men have received sentences amounting to 25 months in jail for attacks on various websites as part of actions carried out on behalf of the Anonymous hacktivist collective. Another was handed a suspended jail sentence.
Christopher Weatherhead, a 22-year-old who was convicted last month, lined up alongside Peter Gibson, Ashley Rhodes and Jake Birchall, who is just 18, to hear his fate at Southwark Crown Court today. The latter three had pleaded guilty earlier in 2012, but Weatherhead denied the one charge against him – one count of conspiracy to impair the operation of computers.
Weatherhead, who went under the pseudonym Nerdo, received the most severe punishment, with 18 months in prison. Rhodes was handed seven months, whilst Gibson was given a suspended six-month sentence. Birchall will be sentenced later.
They attacked websites belonging to a number of major companies, including PayPal, Mastercard, Visa and the British Recorded Music Industry (BPI). They took a host of sites down using distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.
The attack on PayPal was thought to have cost the firm £3.5 million, the court heard in 2012.
The sentencing came after an investigation involving the Police Central e-Crime Unit (PCeU), at the Metropolitan Police Service, which has been involved in tracking hacktivists.
“Perpetrators of distributed denial of service attacks laud them as civil protests but they can be incredibly damaging to the finances and reputations of online businesses. Simultaneously, they impact on the general public’s ability to use online services,” said detective chief inspector Terry Wilson of the PCeU.
“These men provided the infrastructure for such attacks. The sentences they have received are indicative of how serious the crime is and the tough approach the courts will take to such criminals.”
In April last year, an anti-abortion activist with links to Anonymous was given 32 months in prison for hacking into the records and website of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS).
Later this year, teenagers Ryan Cleary and Jake Davis, who admitted to being part of the LulzSec hacking crew, will have their case heard alongside 25-year-old Ryan Ackroyd and another unnamed 17-year-old for their alleged parts in hacktivist attacks.
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