Former Anonymous member convicted in attacks against PayPal, MasterCard, Visa, others

Former hacktivist 'Nerdo' was found guilty of conspiring to attack companies as part of Anonymous' Operation Payback

A 22-year-old U.K. man was convicted for his involvement in a series of distributed denial-of-service attacks launched by the hacktivist group Anonymous against PayPal, MasterCard, Visa and other companies in 2010.

Christopher Weatherhead, of Northampton, U.K., was convicted Thursday at London's Southwark Crown Court on one count of conspiracy to impair the operation of computers, contrary to the U.K. Criminal Law Act of 1977, the U.K.'s Crown Prosecution Service said in a blog post.

Weatherhead, who used the online handle "Nerdo," was arrested in January 2011 and was charged in September that same year with computer-related offenses in relation to Anonymous' "Operation Payback" attack campaign.

Denial-of-service attacks launched as part of "Operation Payback" originally targeted companies and organizations from the music industry that were involved in combating online piracy. However, the campaign later switched its focus toward PayPal, MasterCard, Visa and other financial companies, because of their decision to stop processing donations or providing other services to Wikileaks.

Three other men arrested in the U.K. in connection with the same attacks, Jake Birchall, Ashley Rhodes and Peter Gibson, pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count each of conspiracy to impair the operation of computers.

According to the Crown Prosecution Service, the DDoS attacks cost PayPal, MasterCard, Visa, the British Recorded Music Industry, Ministry of Sound and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry £3.5 million (US$5.6 million) in additional staffing, software and loss of sales.

Russell Tyner, crown advocate for the CPS Organised Crime Division, described Weatherhead in a statement Thursday as a "cyber criminal who waged a sophisticated and orchestrated campaign of online attacks." This was not a victimless crime, he said.

During his hearing on Thursday, Weatherhead told the court that he was only an observer to some of the attacks and only acted as communications manager for Anonymous, taking care of some chat rooms, The Guardian reported.

The judge said that he wants to have as much information as possible before sentencing Weatherhead and the other three co-conspirators, but described the offenses as serious and warned that they could face jail time.

Weatherhead was released on bail and is banned from using Internet chat rooms and posting online under a different name aside from his own. He will be sentenced in January next year at a date that has yet to be set.

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