Anonymous conspirator gets 18-month jail term
Christopher Weatherhead, the 22-year-old student who was convicted of one count of "conspiracy to impair the operation of computers" in December 2012 has now been sentenced to 18 months in prison by Southwark Crown Court. Weatherhead was said to be a British member of the hacktivist collective Anonymous and to have orchestrated "Operation Payback" attacks on PayPal, Visa and MasterCard. Also sentenced in related cases were Ashley Rhodes, 28, jailed for seven months and Peter Gibson, 24, given a six month sentence suspended for two years. A fourth defendant, Jake Birchall, 18, will be sentenced at a later date.
Judge Peter Testar noted the DDoS attacks were not staged for financial gain but still thought it "intolerable that where an individual or group disagrees with a company they should be able to interfere with its activity". Testar said he was convinced by the IRC chat logs that Weatherhead had a "main role", saying it was clear that "he was directing the activity of others. He gave encouragement, he gave technical advice, he nominated targets." Weatherhead's defence suggested that, although he was responsible for his actions, the actual LOIC (Low Orbit Ion Cannon) DDoS attacks were carried out by any number of the 11,000 people logged into the Anonymous chat server.
A report in the Guardian tells how the Judge thought that, although the attacks themselves were not sophisticated, the lengths taken to protect the identities of those involved were. "The defendants were actually rather arrogant" noted Testar at sentencing: "They thought they were far too clever to be caught and used various methods to try to cloak and preserve their anonymity. It seems to me that the police were a little bit more clever than the conspirators."