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22-year-old anonymous hacker convicted

A London jury convicted an alleged member of the Anonymous hacking group for his participation in cyber-attacks against a number of major companies.

Christopher Weatherhead, 22, was convicted of conspiracy to impair the operation of computers after he and three other conspirators hacked into the systems of MasterCard, Visa, PayPal, and several others.

Weatherhead, who went by the online handles "Nerdo" and "NikonElite," will be sentenced at a later date, and could face up to 10 years in prison.

The attacks, which cost the companies involved more than £3.5 million, were directed at firms in the music industry working towards ending Internet piracy. Weatherhead and associates managed to overload the companies' websites with traffic by serving denial-of-service (DOS) attacks. They also used social networks to recruit followers and publicise their attacks, police told the AP.

During September 2011, Scotland Yard arrested Weatherhead and co-conspirator 26-year-old Ashley Rhodes for computer-related crimes; the two were previously arrested in January in connection with Scotland Yard's Anonymous investigation.

The attacks date back to late 2010, when "Operation Payback" targeted various sites that served as WikiLeaks opponents, including many where millions of users' personal information is stored. Anonymous had attacked PayPal, MasterCard, Swiss bank PostFinance,, and Amazon, all of which had pulled their support for WikiLeaks.

By the end of July 2011, the hacker group returned to wreak havoc on PayPal once more, launching Operation PayPal. The transaction website was reportedly targeted just last month, along with Symantec, NBC, and others, on 5 November, Guy Fawkes Day. But PayPal denied that any attack ever took place.

Home page image: flickr, JacobDavis