Possible jail sentence for PayPal hacker

A 22 year-old student has been convicted for his involvement in cyber attacks, one of which cost PayPal £3.5 million.

Christopher Weatherhead, from Northampton, took part in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks in the name of computer hacking group Anonymous. DDoS attacks paralyse organisations' computer systems by flooding them with a number of online requests that cannot be handled by those systems.

At Southward Crown Court, a jury of six men and five women found Weatherhead guilty after two hours of deliberations. They had heard that he spent up to 10 hours a day online and dreamed of working for Amazon or Google. He refused to admit that he had been part of the actual attacks, claiming to have been the communications manager for Anonymous and the creator of online chatrooms where the attacks were planned.

"Hacktivist" Weatherhead was a student at Northampton University when he joined the group, which also attacked a number of other websites including MasterCard, Visa, Ministry of Sound, the British Recorded Music Industry (BPI) and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). Their websites would crash and visitors directed to a page that read: "You've tried to bite the Anonymous hand. You angered the hive and now you are being stung."

PayPal was attacked after it decided not to process payments on behalf of the Wau Holland Foundation, an organisation involved in raising funds for WikiLeaks. The payments site was the victim of a series of attacks "which caused considerable damage to its reputation and loss of trade" during December 2010.

Judge Peter Testar, presiding, warned Weatherhead that he could face jail when sentenced at a later date with his three co-accused, who pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing. "I want to have as much information as possible before deciding what should happen in the case of these four men," he said. "I think these are serious offences to my mind, and I hope the defendant understands that," he said.

Written by

In partnership with