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'Anonymous' Hacker Convicted For Attacks On PayPal, Mastercard

The "Anonymous" logo is seen on a tablet screen.
Lionel Bonaventure
AFP/Getty Images
The "Anonymous" logo is seen on a tablet screen.

A hacker associated with the collective Anonymous has been convicted in Britain today for attacks against the websites of PayPal, Mastercard and Visa.

Christopher Weatherhead was found guilty following the guilty pleas of three others — Jake Birchall, Ashley Rhodes and Peter Gibson. If you remember, the four were arrested for orchestrating denial of service attacks against the companies because they had stopped processing payments for WikiLeaks.

The Guardian reports that the men attacked Paypal for 10 days. They also overwhelmed the servers of the British Recorded Music Industry and replaced an error message with one saying: "You've tried to bite the Anonymous hand. You angered the hive and now you are being stung."

The 11-person jury deliberated for just over two hours Thursday before handing down the guilty verdict.

The Crown Prosecution Service called Weatherhead "a cyber criminal who waged a sophisticated and orchestrated campaign of online attacks."

"These were lawful companies with ordinary customers and hard working employees," the CPS said in a press release. "This was not a victimless crime."

Bloomberg adds:

"The four also targeted the British Recorded Music Industry, Ministry of Sound and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, prosecutors said. The attacks cost the companies more than 3.5 million pounds ($5.6 million) in extra staffing, software and sales losses."

The Daily Mail reports that during the trial, Weatherhead portrayed himself as an "ideological dreamer" who agreed with the free-web philosophy of Anonymous.

"I like the freedom of information on that is on the web," he said. "I enjoy spending a lot of time on Wikipedia reading things... When you can't get information I feel abashed by that."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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