Two former Anonymous members jailed in UK for PayPal, Visa DDoS attacks

A third individual received a suspended prison sentence in connection with the same attacks

By Lucian Constantin, IDG News Service |  Security

Three men were sentenced Thursday in the U.K. for their roles in a series of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks launched against financial and music industry organizations in 2010 by the Anonymous hacktivist collective.Christopher Weatherhead, 22, of Northampton and Ashley Rhodes, 28, of Camberwell, London, received prison sentences of 18 and 7 months respectively for conspiracy to impair the operation of computers, a representative of the Southwark Crown Court Clerk's Office in London said Friday.Another co-conspirator, Peter Gibson, 24, of Hartlepool, received a six-month prison sentence suspended for two years and 100 hours of community service, the court's representative said.The conspiracy charges brought against the three men were in connection with DDoS attacks launched in 2010 against PayPal, MasterCard, Visa, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), the Ministry of Sound record label and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. These attacks were were part of an Anonymous DDoS campaign called Operation Payback.Operation Payback originally targeted organizations involved in combating online piracy. However, in December 2010, the operation shifted its focus toward several financial companies that decided to stop providing services to Wikileaks, which restricted the site's ability to receive new donations and access its existing funds.Weatherhead, who used the online moniker "Nerdo," was arrested in January 2011 and was charged in September that same year. He pleaded not guilty, but was convicted on one count of conspiracy to impair the operation of computers on Dec. 6, 2012.Peter Gibson and Ashley Rhodes had pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to impair the operation of computers on March 6, 2012 and July 11, 2012, respectively. A fourth co-conspirator, Jake Birchall, 18, from Chester, pleaded guilty to the same charges on Jan. 26, 2012, but will be sentenced at a later date.Reached for comment on Friday, the U.K.'s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) referred to a statement issued by Russell Tyner, Crown Advocate for the CPS Organised Crime Division, in December, after Weatherhead was convicted. Tyner said at the time that attacks launched by Weatherhead and the other conspirators cost the targeted companies over £3.5 million (US$5.6 million) in additional staffing, software and loss of sales.

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