back to article Brit mastermind of Anonymous PayPal attack gets 18 months' porridge

A British member of the hacking group Anonymous was jailed today for orchestrating attacks that knocked PayPal, Visa and Mastercard offline. Christopher Weatherhead, 22, who used the online nickname "Nerdo" and was described by prosecutors as "a high-level operator", was sent down for 18 months by Southwark Crown Court. Ashley …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When?

    When is the UK going to get serious about proper punishment for digital crimes? Until they adopt Japan's punishment which is a mandatory 2 years in jail for pirates and 10 years for hackers, more degenerates in the UK will continue their cyber crimes because all they will ever get is a slap on the wrist.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: When?

      You're joking right?

      What they did was no different from this: http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/01/10/282875/french-taxis-clog-transportation-links/

      And I couldn't find any information implying those taxi drivers had to go to jail or do any time. The people who committed this attack should be treated the same.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @AC2

        I don't think you can seriously compare that.

        The protest of those taxi drivers was announced (so people could prepare); the protest blocked roads, sure, but also left roads open so that transportation was hindered but not totally rendered impossible. Also; it was a local action (Paris) which didn't hinder the rest of the country nor the rest of the world.

        And most of all; the actions of said taxi drivers didn't prevent grandma from picking up her groceries and paying for them.

        The attack on those websites weren't merely hindering those financial companies; they also made it completely impossible for several consumers all around the world to get things done, effectively not merely hindering but /preventing/ certain people from simply earning their income.

        Part of that was due to the fact that their actions were never announced; otherwise one could argue that vendors and others could have prepared for the outage.

        I have no opinion on the sentences themselves, but I do think you can't quite compare these two situations.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @AC2

          Wow. So you say the taxi drivers were ok to disrupt traffic because there were other routes for people to accomplishing their goals.

          Well, same in this case. Sure you couldn't use a MasterCard but you could use cash, check, money order, wire transfer, etc.

          They only disrupted the best way of transferring funds.

          I haven't spent much time thinking about a DDOS being a valid form of protest but after reading your insensitive rant I'm starting to agree that it maybe it should be compared to people who lie in front of the entrance to a building or block a road. Illegal but usually a misdemeanor with no jail time.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: When?

      Rediculously harsh sentence. Even community service would have been over the top.

      1. Evan Essence
        Headmaster

        Re: When?

        @AC 24th January 2013 20:56 GMT

        Rediculously harsh sentence.

        I ridicule your rediculous spelling.

      2. DaveyG
        Thumb Down

        Re: When?

        Seriously are you mad? Do you know the damage a DDOS attack can cause or cost? The attacks don't just effect Paypal but thousands of other companies who are using the same upstream providers. Not to mention the people who couldn't do business because Paypal was down. That attack cost millions of Euros of damage.

    3. LarsG
      Meh

      Now while he is inside

      He can educate his cell mates in the fine art of computer crime.

    4. miknik
      Trollface

      Not so anonymous then...

      Bet he is regretting verifying his paypal address now!

  2. Khaptain Silver badge
    Happy

    We "were" legion

    Title says it all

    1. Anonymous John

      Re: We "were" legion

      We were Anonymous. We were Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us when we get out.

      1. Titus Technophobe
        Happy

        Re: We "were" legion

        ..... expect us in 9 months (assuming we keep our noses clean) at the nearest branch of Boots buying bottom soothing Sudocrem......

  3. Dennis Wilson
    Thumb Down

    Great...............

    For forcing thousands to change their passwords he was lucky. I would have given him to the american legal system for a corrupt trial and sentence.

    1. Scorchio!!
      Thumb Up

      Re: Great...............

      "For forcing thousands to change their passwords he was lucky. I would have given him to the american legal system for a corrupt trial and sentence."

      Where he would be having a 'bubberly time'. That reminds me, what's the status of St Julian of Mendacity? (Not that I'll be posting again for a while... ...it's not been possible for a month, and may not be for another barring this short interlude; hello downvoters, don't forget to fire up the LOIC and to break out your toy soldier/whatever grabs your attention deficit riddled excuses for brains.)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Great...............

      Yep. That justice system probably would've gotten him to commit suicide prior to it even going to court ala Aaron Swartz.

      1. Titus Technophobe
        Thumb Up

        Works for me

        It would have saved the tax payer both the court and imprisonment costs.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Works for me

          Trying to figure out how this person hurt you so much that you would rather they were killed.

          1. Titus Technophobe

            Re: Works for me

            More a case that this person committed a crime. This person will now spend probably 9 months with accommodation and food paid for by the tax player player playing on a prison play station. I'm not going to lose too much sleep if they decide that they can't face the consequences of their own actions.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well at least...

    ...there is none of this plea bargaining nonsense and a sentence is a sentence. I trust UK law more than US law in this regard.

    1. JaitcH
      FAIL

      Re: Well at least...

      In the states they would be looking at decades as judges seek favours with big-money sources for their next election.

      American justice - crime personified.

    2. Psyx
      Stop

      Re: Well at least...

      "...there is none of this plea bargaining nonsense and a sentence is a sentence. I trust UK law more than US law in this regard."

      Of course there probably was. Two of them plead guilty, which is in itself a plea bargain, as it saves the expense of going to court and the uncertainty of trial. It was the one who thought he could get away with it and took it to court who got the heavier sentence.

      I can only suspect that you've never been arrested, as plea bargaining essentially starts right from the get-go. For example, you accepting a fixed penalty for speeding is a plea-bargain. You *could* go to court and fight it Premier-League-Footballer 'I didn't know what constabulary meant, so I threw the letter away' style, but you accept liability for you actions and save everyone a lot of pi$$ing around instead. Sit in an interview room and the first tactic is to get you to 'fess up, so it will 'go easy on you'.

      Plea bargaining in one way or another is an essential part of the legal system, as it stops *every* case clogging up our courts (which are already grossly over-worked). The likes of you and I take those options if we know that we did the crime, because we see it as reasonable, and only those who are innocent and feel genuinely aggrieved, or who have expensive lawyers and are guilty, or the professional criminal under-classes who take things to Court.

      The afore-mentioned criminal underclass know that there is a good chance that witnesses won't show up at court and the case will be thrown out if they don't. So they drag it to court saying 'No comment' to the police's every question and hope for that outcome. If the witness DOES show, they change their pleas to Guilty 5 minutes before the case is heard and get away with a lighter sentence anyway, having wasted everyone's time.

      1. Tom 13

        Re: Plea bargaining in one way or another is an essential part of the legal system

        I generally concur with your post, but specifically disagree with your assertion that only the guilty accept a plea bargain. Also while recognizing that it is factually correct that the courts are over-worked, given that they themselves have contributed significantly to that status, I find it difficult to grant them dispensation for it.

        1. Psyx
          Pint

          Re: Plea bargaining in one way or another is an essential part of the legal system

          "I generally concur with your post, but specifically disagree with your assertion that only the guilty accept a plea bargain."

          I'd make no such assertion, having been in just that situation myself and been brow-beaten into accepting a bargain. If I didn't communicate that clearly, then I apologise.

          " Also while recognizing that it is factually correct that the courts are over-worked, given that they themselves have contributed significantly to that status, I find it difficult to grant them dispensation for it."

          How do you think that they contributed to that?

          If you mean defence lawyers dragging their heels, encouraging clients to play the system, and the CPS being chronically over-worked, then yes. I don't really see that as the fault of the CPS, though.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    I forget

    Were these the 4 that were ratted out by their own anon buddy, or were these the ones who got caught by Scotland Yard because they openly used their Xbox handles on the anon IRC? Or were they just caught because they were dumb enough to use the ion cannons which broadcast their IP address to the whole universe?

    1. Steve Mann

      Re: I forget

      Perhaps they were caught because they broke the law?

      1. Titus Technophobe
        Thumb Up

        Re: I forget

        It seems they were caught by the Police, I rather like the quote -

        In his sentencing remarks, Testar said: "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."

  6. Jason Hindle

    Not a terrible lot of facts in the reporting

    I wouldn't want to form an opinion based on what I've just read. However, the criminal (as he is now, in law) does at least face the prospect of getting out of jail (and fairly soon, if he behaves) and leading a normal life. Whether the sentence was sufficient for the crime he committed is another matter.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Not a terrible lot of facts in the reporting

      "......getting out of jail .....and leading a normal life...." Maybe. Apart from the fact he now has a criminal record that will dog his immediate job prospects, maybe for the rest of his life, he also has to wait and see if PayPal and the other victims decide to sue for losses occurring from the attacks. I also suspect that his future computer activities and acquaintances will be monitored for years to come.

      Of course, I wouldn't want to suggest his light sentence had anything to do with him singing like a canary. No, I'm sure he manned up and kept schtum about all his Anonyputz buddies..... Would you trust this guy enough to involve him in a future cyber gang? Probably not.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not a terrible lot of facts in the reporting

        He was studying at Northampton "University". With that on his CV, Prison time can only improve his chances of employment.

      2. Richard 26

        Re: Not a terrible lot of facts in the reporting

        "Of course, I wouldn't want to suggest his light sentence had anything to do with him singing like a canary."

        18months is fairly near the top end of what you get from computer crimes, http://www.computerevidence.co.uk/Cases/CMA.htm

      3. Jason Hindle

        Re: Not a terrible lot of facts in the reporting

        "Of course, I wouldn't want to suggest his light sentence had anything to do with him singing like a canary. No, I'm sure he manned up and kept schtum about all his Anonyputz buddies..... Would you trust this guy enough to involve him in a future cyber gang? Probably not."

        Well, at least he'll not be sharing a cell in a privately run jail, with a man called Bubba, where it delivers more shareholder value to keep you longer, if they can find an excuse.

        Of course, if I was to go purely on El Reg's article, I might think he's be found guilty by association. I'd hope the plods had rather more evidence against him than who he spoke to.

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Re: Not a terrible lot of facts in the reporting

          ".....at least he'll not be sharing a cell in a privately run jail, with a man called Bubba....." A lot of the UK's lower security prisons are indeed run by private companies. Prisoner spearation is not exactly high on the agenda, which means even those on remand awaiting trial can get shoved in with some quite nasty pieces of work.

          "....I might think he's be found guilty by association....." What matters is what the judge and jury thought, and they saw enough convincing evidence to send him down.

  7. 5.antiago

    As an aside

    "It's intolerable that where an individual or a group disagrees with a company they should be able to interfere with its activity"

    There's something vaguely disturbing about the word "intolerable" here. Companies do not have carte blanche to act as they will.

    What's next down that line of reasoning? Getting thrown in jail for writing bad press on Nike or Apple about workers' right abuses? Getting jail time for fighting Big Tobacco, Big Pharma, Big Oil, Big etc etc etc?

    Just an aside, not a comment really on the justice or not of this particular case

    1. Turtle

      @5.antiago: Re: As an aside

      "What's next down that line of reasoning? Getting thrown in jail for writing bad press on Nike or Apple about workers' right abuses? Getting jail time for fighting Big Tobacco, Big Pharma, Big Oil, Big etc etc etc?"

      The only (recent) attempt of which I am aware, to stifle freedom of speech and restrict Americans' First Amendment rights for the benefit of large corporations, is Sen Ron Wyden's (Fascist-OR) IRFA bill, which would make criticism of direct licensing by music by tech companies an actionable offense. See for example a few of my posts on this site or more directly http://thetrichordist.com/2012/11/29/congressional-research-service-memo-on-constitutionality-of-irfa-section-5/

      More generally, aside from Wyden's attempt to abridge the First Amendment, "speech" and "actions" are considered separate species of behavior.

      1. Titus Technophobe
        Thumb Down

        Re: @5.antiago: As an aside

        "It's intolerable that where an individual or a group disagrees with a company they should be able to interfere with its activity"

        There's something vaguely disturbing about the word "intolerable" here. Companies do not have carte blanche to act as they will.

        Nor do individuals and when you carry out activities that stop companies going about there business there are laws that can get you imprisoned.

        What's next down that line of reasoning? Getting thrown in jail for writing bad press on Nike or Apple about workers' right abuses? Getting jail time for fighting Big Tobacco, Big Pharma, Big Oil, Big etc etc etc?

        You could indeed get thrown in jail for writing bad press on Nike etc. Ever heard of Libel?

        Just an aside, not a comment really on the justice or not of this particular case

        I would give these 'asides' a miss you don't seem to know enough to comment on Justice or not as the case may be.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @5.antiago: Libel

          Libel is civil a offence in the UK == no gaol time

    2. Keep Refrigerated
      Devil

      Re: As an aside

      I was just thinking the same. Doesn't Greenpeace regularly practice "interfering with [the] activity" of companies they consider morally reprehensible?

      How about government regulators? Oh I see, no danger there of interfering with corporate activities...

      What the judge seemed to mean was (FTFY) "It's intolerable that where an individual or a group disagrees with a company they should be able to interfere with its questionable economic activities"

      Anyway Paypal supports scams - I have first hand experience of being scammed through Paypal - as far as I'm concerned Anonymous didn't do enough damage.

      1. Titus Technophobe
        Devil

        Re: As an aside

        I was just thinking the same. Doesn't Greenpeace regularly practice "interfering with [the] activity" of companies they consider morally reprehensible?

        Greenpeace are a legitimate protest group who publish a clear agenda. On occasions I personally agree with their actions and other times not. That aside they are prepared to ‘stand up and be counted’, as such achieve results and also get my respect.

        Greenpeace are not a couple of emotionally retarded wonks who arbitrarily decide to hack a legitimate business. A decision based on the arrogant believe they won’t get caught ..... I think the phrase is ‘do the crime do the time’.

        How about government regulators? Oh I see, no danger there of interfering with corporate activities...

        How about the work and factories acts. This is a piece of legislation that stops the evil machinations of the big corporations? No doubt the judge involved in this case would have no qualms about convicting a company for this one, same as he has convicted these hackers.

        Just out of interest what government regulator would need to regulate PayPal?

        What the judge seemed to mean was (FTFY) "It's intolerable that where an individual or a group disagrees with a company they should be able to interfere with its questionable economic activities"

        What questionable activities?

        Anyway Paypal supports scams - I have first hand experience of being scammed through Paypal - as far as I'm concerned Anonymous didn't do enough damage.

        I too have had fraudulent experiences with PayPal, and some others, it doesn’t mean that I agree with hackers committing further criminal activities against those organisations. Just for you, putting it simply, ‘two wrongs do not make a right’.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: As an aside

          Too Illiterate; Didn't Read

          1. Titus Technophobe
            Boffin

            @AC Posted Friday 25th January 2013 10:56 GMT

            Sorry to hear about your illiteracy and reading problems. Maybe you need to find a more appropriate forum?

            1. Psyx
              Pint

              Re: @AC Posted Friday 25th January 2013 10:56 GMT

              "Sorry to hear about your illiteracy and reading problems. Maybe you need to find a more appropriate forum?"

              I hear The Sun and Daily Mail are keen to get more advertising revenue thanks to forum posters...

  8. doc holliday

    They should have received 18 years each.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    how much?

    Would be interesting to know if the defence sought disclosure of the basis of the Paypal figure of 3.5 million in damage this caused.

    After all, pulling a number out of the arse of a magic elephant to use as "evidence" to make something look much worse than it actually is seems to happen rather a lot in our justice system.

  10. mrbofus

    "It's intolerable that where an individual or a group disagrees with a company they should be able to interfere with its activity," he said.

    A blanket statement like that seems rather short-sighted and small-minded. If workers are being treated truly unfairly, they should be able to try to make changes, no? Heck, if you don't like working, shouldn't you have the freedom to quit, even if the company doesn't want you to because you quitting might "interfere with its activity"?

    Yes, it's a fine line, but this judge seems to say that the line doesn't exist and that no company should have its activities interfered with for any reason.

    1. Steven Roper
      Flame

      He probably said that

      because he liekly owns shares in more than a few of them.

      Judges and magistrates should not be allowed to own any shares in any company whatsoever, because the obvious conflict of interest becomes very evident when they come out with comments like that. They get paid enough that they don't need to own shares to make themselves even richer.

      In fact, the principle of the judiciary not being allowed to own shares shouldn't merely be law; it should be a mainstay of jurisprudence on par with innocence unless proven guilt and freedom of speech.

      1. Psyx
        Pint

        Re: He probably said that

        "They get paid enough that they don't need to own shares to make themselves even richer."

        So you'd happily have to spend your days dealing with the worst that humanity can offer, hated by every criminal you've ever jailed and have to constantly worry about walking the streets and potentially the safety of your material goods and family for a hundred grand a year?

        I suspect that getting the key-scratches polished out of their cars probably stretches to at least a grand a year, for a start!

    2. Velv Silver badge

      "Heck, if you don't like working, shouldn't you have the freedom to quit, even if the company doesn't want you to because you quitting might "interfere with its activity"?"

      You're really not in the same league - most companies would be hard pushed to argue any individual was so critical to their operation that leaving would interfere with its activity, (there are a few, and you can insure against losing them), and employment rights are enshrined in law - that's why you have a notice period - to permit the company to put measures in place to replace you.

  11. Winkypop Silver badge
    Devil

    War!

    "It's intolerable that where an individual or a group disagrees with a company they should be able to interfere with its activity,"

    But isn't that the basis of war?

    Just replace "company" with "country"

  12. Ramazan

    they killed cops first in Chechnya BTW

    1. Titus Technophobe
      IT Angle

      Who ?

      .... Christopher Jan Weatherhead and Ashley Rhodes ... by heck they do get around

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    tolerable

    "It's intolerable that where an individual or a group disagrees with a company they should be able to interfere with its activity," he said.

    Well, it was tolerable, if I remember, with court's agreement, when not long ago, a group of protesters disagreed with a company and smashed up a couple of training jets meant for Sri Lanka or something. They got caught, went to trial, and got acquitted.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: tolerable

      ".....a group of protesters disagreed with a company and smashed up a couple of training jets....." If you are referring to the 1996 break-in at BAe, where four protesters vandalised a BAe Hawk destined for Indonesia, IIRC, the protestors' argument was that they sincerely believed the jets would be used to kill people and therefore they were using minimal and reasonable force to prevent a lethal attack on others. The Indonesians had previously used their BAe Hawks for bombing civillians in East Timor and the jury accepted that it was highly likely the aircraft they had vandalised would have been used for a similar and potentially illegal role.

      But that case is different in that there was a legal argument that their criminal act was justified in preventing a more serious crime, and was the last and minimal resort the group had. The Anonyputzs' action was a crime in itself, was not meant to stop any crime being committed by Paypal or any of the other targets, and the Anonyputzs involved had no intention of anything other than interfering with the business of PayPal and other companies due to the Anonyputzs' warped POV. So the comparison is simply invalid.

      1. foo_bar_baz
        Meh

        Re: tolerable

        I'm surprised by your take on the BAe case. It's pretty schizofrenic to accept their reasoning while a govenment agency has granted export permits for the plane.

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: foo_bar_baz Re: tolerable

          "i'm surprised by your take on the BAe case......" It's to do with the English legal definition of assault, which includes that you do not actually have to be physically damaged but are assaulted if you reasonably believe you are going to be assaulted. This is in effect more than just threatening behaviour. This then reflects on the legal defence of acting in self-defence or defence of another - if you reasonably believe that another party is liable to be assaulted you can act in their defence with reasonable force. The protestors could show they had very reasonable grounds for believing that the plane would be used for a potentially lethal and possibly illegal assault on persons in East Timor, therefore their limited action - they did not kill anyone or blow up the building, just damaged the one jet without endangering anyone or other property - represented a reasonable use of force to stop the assault.

          ".....pretty schizofrenic to accept their reasoning while a govenment agency has granted export permits for the plane....." I never said I agreed with the argument, though I do admire the way the legal argument was put. It was the jury that made the decision in that case. The fact that HMG had accepted the guarantees given by the Indonesian government that the jet would not be used for oppressing the people of East Timor, does not invalidate the protestors' conviction that it was going to be used so as they put no value in the Indonesian guarantees. They could truthfully say and prove in court that they had reason to believe they were acting in defence of others, and since their belief was not unreasonable (anyone with half a clue about the prior actions of the Indonesians thought the jet was going to be used for bombing East Timor) their defence was accepted by the jury.

          1. foo_bar_baz

            Re: foo_bar_baz tolerable

            By schitzophrenic I referred to the state, not you. The courts and the agency grating the permits represent the same body.

            1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
              Stop

              Re: Re: foo_bar_baz tolerable

              ".....The courts and the agency grating the permits represent the same body." No. The license was granted by HMG, i.e., politicians and civil servants, whilst the court was representing the legality of the issues. It is not illegal for you to challenge a government ruling in English law as the judiciary are independent of the political body. In the Hawk case, the defence proved that they are reasonable grounds to believe what they stated as their defence, which the judge decided was in keeping with the spirit of the law and the jury agreed. It helped to show that the protestors had tried legal means to stop the export first and only resorted to the destruction of property as a last resort. It is completely different to the Anonyputzs, who have no legal defence for their actions, and are simply dressing they're faux "cause" as an excuse for childish vandalism.

  14. ukgnome
    Meh

    Meh

    It was only Paypal - a denizen of evil!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hackers?

    DDoS = Script Kiddie not hacking.

  16. The FunkeyGibbon
    Facepalm

    Silly boys

    You can't go around attacking people just because you disagree with them! This is not the playground and he who shouts loudest wins isn't how things are decided. But then cowardly attacks using an attempt at anonymity are so much easier than taking a stand in a legal way.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Silly boys

      Just out of interest how could you make a stand, legally, which would even get noticed by the likes of Paypal, Sony, etc?

      1. Psyx
        Stop

        Re: Silly boys

        "Just out of interest how could you make a stand, legally, which would even get noticed by the likes of Paypal, Sony, etc?"

        You couldn't, because they had no legal reason to make one.

        You don't like how a company does business? You take your business elsewhere. It is not for you to decide that other customers should be prevented from using them and to put measures in place to do that.

        I don't like a few shops in town, but I don't have legal recourse to nail a bit of wood over their doorway.

      2. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Re: Silly boys

        "....how could you make a stand, legally, which would even get noticed by the likes of Paypal, Sony, etc?" There are legal ways to protest, such as trying to encourage an embargo of a service. As long as you stick to factual statements and not slander/libel, there is nothing to stop you trying to arrange an embargo. But that takes effort and thought, and getting sheeple to fire the LOIC is so much easier and "fun" for script kiddies.

  17. Benjol

    Wasn't this thing about revenge for blocking donations to Wikileaks?

    Does this work the other way round?

    "It's intolerable that where a company disagrees with an individual or a group they should be able to interfere with its activity"

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Wasn't this thing about revenge for blocking donations to Wikileaks?

      "Does this work the other way round?....." No because the manner in which Paypal, VISA et al acted was both legal and in accordance with their own conditions of service. It was also driven by legal considerations - the worry of legal action against them by the US authorities - rather than childish rage.

  18. TheWebMan2.0

    This is shocking. The UKs criminal system is out of date they're clearly running Win 95 in their chambers. DDoS is a digital stand in, nothing else. PayPal didn't lose any money as they'd be insured.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is just a slap on the wrist

    This is certainly not a disincentive to criminals.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019