'Anonymous' hackers jailed for infamous DDoS campaign

Cost PayPal £3.5 million court heard

A student at Northampton University and a man from south London have been jailed for taking part in an unsophisticated but effective 2010 DDoS rampage that reportedly cost PayPal £3.5 million ($5.6 million).

Christopher Weatherhead, 22, and Ashley Rhodes, 28, were said to have participated in a series of DDoS attacks between August 1, 2010 and January 22, 2011 under the banner of Anonymous.

One particular DDoS protest in December 2010, 'Operation Payback, severely disrupted PayPal after it refused to process payments from the campaigning Wikileaks website beloved of hacktivists, the court heard.

Other companies attacked during the Anonymous campaign included MasterCard, Visa, the Ministry of Sound, the British Recorded Music Industry, among others.

Weatherhead was handed an 18-month sentence by the judge at Southwark Crown Court, while Rhodes was jailed for seven months.

A third defendant, Peter Gibson, 24, was given a six month suspended sentence suspended for two years and 100 hours of community service while a fourth, Jake Birchall, 18, will be sentenced on 1 February.

The judge accepted that the attacks were ideological rather than financial in nature. The group even considered attacking singer Lily Allen, but decided not to.

"They got themselves into a bit of an ideological twizzle. On one hand, they wanted to attack her because she had taken a stand against breach of copyright. But on the other hand, they didn't like the idea of attacking artists," commented Judge Testar.

By any standards, the UK has been over-represented when it comes to hacktivists, which some have put down the country's strong non-conformist traditions but could also be explained by more diligent policing.

The most infamous example of this might be the disturbingly young Britons arrested in connection with attacks attributed to the high-flying but short-lived rival hacking collective, LulzSec.

The UK doesn't have more hacktivists, just more who get caught.

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