Author Topic: British 'Anonymous' hacker faces jail for £3.5m cyber-attack on PayPal because..  (Read 1836 times)

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British 'Anonymous' hacker faces jail for £3.5m cyber-attack on PayPal because it wouldn't process WikiLeaks donations

    Christopher Weatherhead found guilty of hacking several major websites
    Court heard he wanted to 'rape' and 'kill' the companies under attack
    Three others have admitted joining cyber-campaign to cause sites to crash
    Victims’ websites would get message: 'You’ve tried to bite the Anonymous hand. You angered the hive and now you are being stung.'
    Victim PayPal says the attacks on them cost £3.5m to fix
    Weatherhead and fellow hackers to be sentenced at later date

By Martin Robinson
PUBLISHED: 13:40 GMT, 6 December 2012 | UPDATED: 13:40 GMT, 6 December 2012

A leading British member of the 'Anonymous' hacking gang was today convicted for a series of devastating cyber-attacks on some of the world's biggest companies..

On one occasion 'hacktivist' Christopher Weatherhead helped target PayPal because it would not process donations for the fundraising arm of Julian Assange's WikiLeaks, costing it £3.5million.

The self-confessed ‘idealist’ boasted online he would ‘rape’ and ‘kill’ the companies Anonymous attacked.

Today the 22-year-old remained impassive as the unanimous guilty verdict was returned for his part in distributed denial of service, or DDoS, attacks, which made the victim's website suddenly crash.

The DDoS attacks paralysed computer systems by flooding them with an intolerable number of online requests.

Victims would be directed to a page displaying the message: 'You’ve tried to bite the Anonymous hand. You angered the hive and now you are being stung.'

Weatherhead was studying at Northampton University when he joined the cyber campaign which also attacked sites including MasterCard, Visa, Ministry of Sound, the British Recorded Music Industry (BPI) and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).

Weatherhead, who used the internet name Nerdo, also discussed the idea of attacking Lily Allen’s website in retaliation for her public anti-piracy stance.

Prosecutor Sandip Patel said: ‘Christopher Weatherhead, the defendant, is a cyber-attacker, and that he, and others like him, waged a sophisticated and orchestrated campaign of online attacks that paralysed a series of targeted computer systems belonging to companies, to which they took issue with for whatever reason, that caused unprecedented harm.'

Mr Patel said ‘Operation Payback’ had originally targeted companies involved in the music industry and opponents of internet piracy, but was later ‘broadened’ to include new objectives, including PayPal.

PayPal was attacked after it decided not to process payments on behalf of the Wau Holland Foundation, an organisation involved in raising funds for WikiLeaks.

Between December 8 and 17, 2010, PayPal was the victim of a series of attacks 'which caused considerable damage to its reputation and loss of trade'.

Weatherhead had denied a charge of conspiring to impair the operation of computers between August 1, 2010 and January 22 last year.

The jury of six men and five women returned the guilty verdict after little more than two hours of deliberations.

PayPal also had to pay for further software and hardware to defend against similar future attacks.

That, combined with the loss of trading, cost the firm £3.5million.

The amount the hacking cost MasterCard and Visa was not given but the defendant, in an internet relay chat (IRC) channel conversation with someone called Tred, boasted: 'We have probably done some million pound of dmg [damage] to mc [MasterCard].'

The BPI was attacked on 19 and 20 September 2010, costing it £3,996 for online security and hundreds of pounds in other costs.

Four websites run by the Ministry of Sound were targeted in two separate attacks between 2 and 6 October 2010, which cost the company around £9,000 in additional staffing, software and loss of sales.

The financial cost to the IFPI was more than £20,000 as its website was down for nine days when it was hacked between 27 November and 6 December 2010.

Weatherhead painted himself in court as an ideological dreamer, who stumbled across the Anonymous group by chance and agreed with its stance on censorship on the internet.

'I like the freedom of information on that is on the web', he said.

'I enjoy spending a lot of time on Wikipedia reading things.

'When you can’t get information I feel abashed by that'.

Three other defendants had already pleaded guilty to the charge.

They are Ashley Rhodes, 27, of Camberwell, south London; Peter Gibson, 24, of Hartlepool; and Jake Birchall, 18, from Chester.

No date was fixed for sentencing but pre-sentencing reports were ordered for the four.

Judge Peter Testar said: 'I am not making any promises at all by allowing bail and ordering a pre-sentencing report. This is a serious offence and I hope the defendant understands that.'

Russell Tyner, Crown Advocate for the CPS Organised Crime Division, said: 'Christopher Weatherhead is a cyber criminal who waged a sophisticated and orchestrated campaign of online attacks on the computer systems of several major companies.

'A self-styled "hacktivist", Weatherhead and his fellow conspirators targeted companies in the music industry involved in combating internet piracy and companies that had stopped processing online donations to WikiLeaks. Their campaign of attacks cost these companies over £3.5 million in additional staffing, software and loss of sales.

'These were lawful companies with ordinary customers and hard working employees. This was not a victimless crime.'