Student on trial for alleged role in Anonymous PayPal attacks

By Danny Palmer
23 Nov 2012 View Comments

A student is standing trial accused of aiding hacking collective Anonymous with an attack against online payment company PayPal which, it is claimed, cost the online payment service £3.5m. 

The jury at Southwark Crown Court was told how 22-year-old Christopher Weatherhead, a student at Northampton University at the time of the attacks, took part in Anonymous's "Operation Payback" campaign. This saw the hacking collective target organisations against internet piracy, specifically illegal downloading of music.

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The campaign also saw less significant attacks against Mastercard, Visa, the Ministry of Sound and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.

Weatherhead, from Northampton, has denied the charges of conspiracy and pleaded not guilty to using DDoS attacks to overload servers with requests between 1 August 2010 and 22 January 2011. Anonymous reportedly targeted PayPal after the company blocked donations to whistleblower website Wikileaks.

The jury was told how Operation Payback cost PayPal £3.5m, as the company needed to spend time fixing the security breach and buying additional resources in order to protect against similar attacks in future. The company also needed to draft in staff from parent company eBay in order to deal with the aftermath of the attack.

Sandip Patel, speaking for the prosecution, argued that Weatherhead was one of the cyber-attackers 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, and those attacks caused unprecedented harm".

The trial continues. 

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