Prison terms for cyber attack hackers

By James Barnes

25 January 2013 at 12:24 BST

Two men who carried out a series of cyber attacks as part of the Anonymous hacker group have been jailed in the UK.

Hackers attacked unnamed U.S. law firm

Christopher Weatherhead, a 22-year-old Northampton University student who used on-line alias 'Nerdo', was yesterday sentenced to 18 months, while church volunteer Ashley Rhodes, 28, will serve seven months for his actions on behalf of the ‘hacktivist’ group.


According to The Guardian newspaper in London, the men launched a series of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, with one assault costing on-line payment service PayPal at least £3.5 million.
A third man, Peter Gibson, 24, was given a suspended six-month prison sentence for his part in the Anonymous attacks, while the sentencing of a fourth man, Jake Burchall, 18, was adjourned.
The men were convicted of attacking anti-piracy and financial companies between August 2010 and January 2011, including assaults on Visa and Mastercard as well as PayPal. It is reported that the attacks were retaliation for the companies cutting ties with the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks following its release of secret US diplomatic cables.


In his sentencing at London's Southwark Crown Court, Judge Peter Testar remarked: ‘The defendants were actually rather arrogant. They thought they were far too clever to be caught and used various methods to try to cloak and preserve their anonymity. It seems to me that the police were a little bit more clever than the conspirators.’
Prosecuting, Joel Smith, added that four men were ‘not simply involved in the attacks, but played roles in maintaining the infrastructure used by other Anonymous members to co-ordinate attacks’.

Data breach

Elsewhere in the UK, information watchdogs hit technology giant Sony with a £250,000 fine following the hacking of its Playstation Network, which compromised the personal data of millions of users two years ago.
The UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) levied the fine after Sony could not rule out the possibility of the hackers accessing customer credit card details, according to technology web site Wired.

Security priority

An ICO investigation found that Sony’s failure to update its software led to a lack in security for customer data, adding that the attack should have been anticipated.
David Smith, the ICO’s deputy commissioner and director of data protection, said: ‘If you are responsible for so many payment card details and log-in details then keeping that personal data secure has to be your priority.
‘In this case that just didn't happen, and when the database was targeted -- albeit in a determined criminal attack -- the security measures in place were simply not good enough.’
Sony, which has completely rebuilt its security system since the breach, plans to appeal the decision.


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