Anonymous DDoS attacks cost PayPal £3.5m, court hears

Northampton student pleads not guilty to charges relating to attacks on online payment portal.

Information Security

A Northampton student has been accused of taking part in a cyber attack that cost online payment portal PayPal 3.5 million.

Christopher Weatherhead is alleged to have joined forces with Anonymous hacktivists to stage an attack against PayPal over its refusal to process payments related to the funding of whistleblowing website Wikileaks.

Weatherhead, who was studying at Northampton University when the attacks took place, has pleaded not guilty to conspiring to impair the operation of computers between 1 August 2010 and 22 January 2011.

Those attacks caused unprecedented harm.

Several others, including Ashley Rhodes from Camberwell, South London, Peter Gibson, from Hartlepool and another male, who cannot be named for legal reasons, have already pleaded guilty to the same charge.

Weatherhead has been accused of using an Internet Relay Chat site to encourage people to take part in a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack on PayPal.

According to the BBC News site, prosecutor Sandip Patel is reported to have told the court: "It is the prosecution case that Christopher Weatherhead 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.

"Those attacks caused unprecedented harm," he added.

The attack caused Paypal "enormous economic harm", he claimed, and more than 100 employees from PayPal's parent company eBay had to be enlisted to help repair the damage.

The company was also forced to invest in hardware and software to defend itself against similar attacks in future, which in total cost the firm 3.5 million.

The trial continues.

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