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Two jailed in the UK for Anonymous cyber attacks

Warwick Ashford

Two men who carried out cyber attacks as part of the Anonymous hacktivist collective have been sentenced to jail terms.

Christopher Weatherhead, 22, of Northampton; and Ashley Rhodes, 28, of Camberwell, London, were jailed for 18 months and seven months respectively.

Co-defendant Peter Gibson, 24, of Hartlepool, was given a six-month sentence, suspended for two years. Remaining co-defendant, Jake Birchall, 18, from Chester, will be sentenced on 1 February.

The four men carried out distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks in the name of Anonymous in 2010 and 2011, with Weatherhead – who denied the charges - taking a leading role, according to prosecutors.

The sentences were handed down at Southwark Crown Court and are thought to be the first convictions for DDoS in the UK, according to the BBC.

The attacks are estimated to have cost PayPal £3.5m. The organisation was among several targeted as part of Operation Payback conducted by Anonymous against such transactional services companies as Visa and Mastercard, in support of WikiLeaks.

Websites belonging to the British Recorded Music Industry (BPI), the Ministry of Sound and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry were also hit.

The cyber attacks were made using a free tool downloaded from the internet called Low Orbit Ion Canon (LOIC).

Anonymous's Operation Payback originally targeted companies involved in the music industry and opponents of internet piracy. But the hacktivists later broadened the attack to include revenge for WikiLeaks after the backlash against the site for publishing thousands of US diplomatic cables.

Judge Peter Testar said: "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."


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