Student denies PayPal cyber-attack

Student Christopher Weatherhead was one of four British hackers to attack PayPal in support of Wikileaks, a court heard yesterday.

While his three co-defendants – Londoner Ashley Rhodes, 27, Peter Gibson, 24, from Hartlepool and an 18-year-old male who can’t be named for legal reasons – have already pleaded guilty, Weatherhead, 22, has denied conspiracy. He appeared yesterday at at Southwark Crown Court.

The DDoS attacks were carried out between August 2010 and January 2011 in response to PayPal’s refusal to process payments to the whistle-blowing website. Paypal claims they cost it £3.5 million.

The attacks formed part of Anonymous’s Operation Payback, which also targeted MasterCard, Visa, Ministry of Sound, the British Recorded Music Industry (BPI) and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).

And, according to the prosecution, Weatherhead – who used the online name Nerdo – posted plans on an IRC channel encouraging fellow members to attack PayPal. He ‘played a central and integral role in the overall effectiveness’, the prosecutor said.

The £3.5 million alleged cost of the incident is supposedly down to lost transactions while the site was out of order – presumably customers either gave up on their transactions or paid with bagfuls of pennies instead.

PayPal also says it was forced to buy new hardware and software to help it avoid similar attacks in future, and borrow more than 100 staff from parent company eBay.