British ‘Anonymous’ hacker faces jail for £3.5m cyber-attack on PayPal because it wouldn’t process WikiLeaks donations

  • Christopher Weatherhead found guilty of hacking several major websites
  • Court heard he wanted to ‘rape’ and ‘kill’ the companies under attack
  • Three others have admitted joining cyber-campaign to cause sites to crash
  • Victims’ websites would get message: ‘You’ve tried to bite the Anonymous hand. You angered the hive and now you are being stung.’
  • Victim PayPal says the attacks on them cost £3.5m to fix
  • Weatherhead and fellow hackers to be sentenced at later date

By Martin Robinson

 

Guilty: A jury took two hours to find Christopher Weatherfield (pictured outside in January) guilty for his part in a hacking campaign Convicted: A jury took two hours to find Christopher Weatherfield (pictured outside court in January) guilty for his part in a hacking campaign

A leading British member of the ‘Anonymous’ hacking gang was today convicted for a series of devastating cyber-attacks on some of the world’s biggest companies..

On one occasion ‘hacktivist’ Christopher Weatherhead helped target PayPal because it would not process donations for the fundraising arm of Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks, costing it £3.5million.

The self-confessed ‘idealist’ boasted online he would ‘rape’ and ‘kill’ the companies Anonymous attacked.

Today the 22-year-old remained impassive as the unanimous guilty verdict was returned for his part in distributed denial of service, or DDoS, attacks, which made the victim’s website suddenly crash.

The DDoS attacks paralysed computer systems by flooding them with an intolerable number of online requests.

Victims would be directed to a page displaying the message: ‘You’ve tried to bite the Anonymous hand. You angered the hive and now you are being stung.’

Weatherhead was studying at Northampton University when he joined the cyber campaign which also attacked sites including MasterCard, Visa, Ministry of Sound, the British Recorded Music Industry (BPI) and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).

Weatherhead, who used the internet name Nerdo, also discussed the idea of attacking Lily Allen’s website in retaliation for her public anti-piracy stance.

Prosecutor Sandip Patel said: ‘Christopher Weatherhead, the defendant, is a cyber-attacker, and that he, and others like him, waged a sophisticated and orchestrated campaign of online attacks that paralysed a series of targeted computer systems belonging to companies, to which they took issue with for whatever reason, that caused unprecedented harm.’

Mr Patel said ‘Operation Payback’ had originally targeted companies involved in the music industry and opponents of internet piracy, but was later ‘broadened’ to include new objectives, including PayPal.