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Anonymous in the dock over £3.5m PayPal attack

According to court documents, an alleged Anonymous member's attack on the PayPal website has cost the financial transaction service £3.5 million, the BBC reports. The suspect in question has pleaded not guilty to the hacking charges.

Former Northampton University student Christopher Weatherhead, 22, has been accused of taking part in Anonymous-sanctioned digital attacks on PayPal and other companies with an anti-piracy stance.

The strikes took place between 1 August, 2010 and 22 January, 2011 and took the form of a distributed denial of service (DDoS) blitz, which is a means of overwhelming computer operations. Crashed sites would then be redirected to a page showing the message: "You've tried to bite the Anonymous hand. You angered the hive and now you are being stung."

The series of attacks, codenamed Operation Payback, was initially intended to target those who took action against the torrent site Pirate Bay for the unlawful distribution of copyrighted material. In addition to the popular payment portal, companies that were targeted included the British Record Music Industry, the Ministry of Sound, the Phonographic Industry, the International Federation, MasterCard and Visa.

According to the prosecutor leading the case, PayPal was targeted particularly severely as a response for blocking payments to WikiLeaks in late 2010, as well as for its efforts to help combat online file-sharing.

"It is the prosecution case that 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, and those attacks caused unprecedented harm," said prosecutor Sandip Patel to a Southwark Crown Court jury.

He went on to state that three co-conspirators - Ashley Rhodes, 27, from Camberwell, Peter Gibson, 24, from Hartlepool and an 18-year-old male who cannot be named for legal reasons – have already admitted guilt.

Image Credit: Anonymous LA by Sklathill