Anonymous Hackers Jailed
January 24, 2013

Members Of Anonymous Receive UK Jail Sentence

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Last month, four hackers belonging to the Anonymous collective responsible for bringing down the websites of MasterCard, PayPal and Visa were convicted in a London court.

Today, two of these hackers have been sentenced to jail for conspiracy to impair the operation of computers.

According to the AFP, 22-year old Christopher Weatherhead has been sentenced to 18 months in jail after being found guilty of attacking MasterCard, PayPal, Visa and other companies.

According to the Daily Mail, Weatherhead was facing a maximum sentence of ten years in prison. The hacker´s defending council, however, pleaded with the court to give him a suspended sentence, saying his “nerdiness” would make him vulnerable in jail.

“He is clearly not experienced with the tougher side of life and the thought of prison fills him with dread and anxiety,” said Mark Ruffell, Weatherford´s defending council.

A second hacker, 28-year old Ashley Rhodes, was also found guilty of conspiracy to impair the operation of computers and has been sentenced to 7 months in jail.

In 2010, members of the Anonymous hacktivist collective began to turn their ire towards these financial institutions. What began as an attack against members of the music industry morphed into “Operation Payback,” which was meant to defend Julian Assange´s Wikileaks. When these companies began to pull their support for Wikileaks and stopped taking donations for the website, Anonymous hackers became upset and decided to take their own actions. According to officials, the attacks cost these companies more than $5 million (USD) in additional staffing, security and lost sales.

These four hackers and others spent ten days targeting these sites with DDoS attacks meant to cripple a site and bring it to its knees. When visitors came to these sites during the attacks, they were greeted with a banner that read: “You´ve tried to bite the Anonymous hand. You angered the hive and now you are being stung.”

Though the amount of monetary damage done to MasterCard was not revealed to the court, Weatherford bragged in online chats their attacks had “probably done some million pound of damage.”

The other two hackers have also pleaded guilty but have not yet been sentenced.

The third hacker, 24-year old Peter Gibson, was found to have played a lesser role in these attacks and therefore has been given a six month suspended sentence.

The fourth hacker, 18-year old Jake Birchall has also pleaded guilty to his involvement in these attacks, but will be sentenced at a later date.

Judge Peter Testar said of these crimes, “It is intolerable that when an individual or a group disagrees with a particular entity's activities they should be free to curtail that activity by means of attacks such as those which took place in this case.

“The purpose of these conspirators was to cause the websites of organizations to crash and therefore take them temporarily out of service,” continued Judge Testar.