Credit card cracker gets 20 years

Computer expert Albert Gonzalez has been jailed for 20 years in the US for his part in steaming more than 130 million credit and debit card numbers.

The Judge who sentenced him described the case as "the largest and most costly example of computer hacking in US history".

Gonzalez, from Miami, pleaded guilty at his trial in September 2009. He was accused, along with two Russian co-conspirators, of hacking into retailer payment systems. They targeted more than 250 US companies including payment processor Heartland Payment Systems, food and drink store 7-Eleven and American supermarket Hannaford Brothers Co.

Gonzalez was found to have used SQL injection attacks to exploit weaknesses in payment software programmes and access data, stealing millions of customer card details. He blamed "curiosity and addiction" for his crimes.

As part of a plea bargain, he had handed over to the court expensive jewellery, watches, his car and home. He also gave $1m in cash that he had buried in the his parents' garden.

US court has dismissed Asperger's syndrome as a hacking defence and thrown the book at Albert Gonzalez.

Gonzalez, 28, made millions hacking into major US retailers. Before that he was acting as an informant for the US Secret Service and turned rogue on his employers.

However Gonzalez blamed the fact he stole millions of consumers' account details on his Asperger's syndrome and the fact he was addicted to the world wide web.

The court didn't think these were viable excuses and sentenced him to 20 years porridge, which breaks all records for harsh sentences imposed on hackers in US courts.

Under his plea agreement, Gonzalez had faced up to 25 years in prison, but asked the judge for leniency in sentencing, saying he had been addicted to computers since childhood, had abused alcohol and illegal drugs for years and suffered from symptoms of Asperger's disorder, a form of autism.

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Gonzalez's prison term could be extended as another judge will sentence him today on a second set of similar charges, to which he has also pleaded guilty.