Anonymous members jailed for hacking campaign

By Danny Palmer
25 Jan 2013 View Comments
Anonymous hacking group logo

Two men have been jailed by Southwark Crown Court for carrying out cyber-attacks on behalf of hacktivist collective Anonymous.

Christopher Weatherhead, a 22-year-old student from Northampton, received a jail sentence of 18 months, while Ashley Rhodes, a 28-year-old IT worker and church volunteer from Camberwell, was sentenced to seven months in prison for his role in the attacks.

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Twenty-four-year-old Peter Gibson from Hartlepool was given a six-month suspended sentence for his part in the campaign, while 18-year-old Jake Birchall from Chester will be sentenced on 1 February for his role in the attacks.

A DDoS campaign against online payment service providers cost PayPal at least £3.5m, while Visa and Mastercard were also subjected to the attacks between August 2010 and January 2011. The attacks formed part of Anonymous' "Operation Payback" which targeted organisations that had declared a stance against internet piracy and the illegal downloading of music.

According to prosecutor Joel Smith, the four defendants were "not simply involved in the attacks, but played roles in maintaining the infrastructure used by other Anonymous members to coordinate attacks".

Weatherhead, known online as "Nerdo", was described as a high-ranking member of Anonymous who acted as a worldwide press spokesman for the group. Rhodes, who used the online alias "Nikonelite", was said to be the most hands-on of the defendants and had specialist DDoS software on his computer.

Judge Peter Testar described the convicted Anonymous members as "rather arrogant" but the nature of their hacks wasn't very sophisticated.

"What was sophisticated was the lengths taken to protect the identities of those involved," he said.

"The investigators are really to be commended for breaking down the wall of anonymity that was put up in order to prevent the activity of these conspirators being interrupted."

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