Man who hacked into abortion provider website jailed
- 13 April 2012
- From the section UK
A computer hacker who targeted the website of Britain's biggest abortion provider has been jailed for two years and eight months.
James Jeffery, from Wednesbury, West Midlands, pleaded guilty to breaking into the BPAS website.
The 27-year-old said he acted after two women he knew had abortions which he "disagreed" with.
Jeffery, who stole the records of 10,000 women registered on the site, was jailed by Southwark Crown Court.
Jeffery, who admitted two offences under the Computer Misuse Act, boasted on Twitter about what he had done.
Planned to publish data
The court was told he intended to publish the data, including names, email addresses and telephone numbers, on an online sharing site but got cold feet.
The court heard that 60,000 women contact BPAS every year and 53,000 have abortions under their supervision.
Judge Michael Gledhill QC told Jeffery: "You only have to think for a few seconds of the terrible consequences had that threat been carried out."
The judge said: "Just as many people disagree with the view you held, many do agree. However, those who find abortion repugnant do not use this as an excuse to justify deliberately committing offences."
The court heard he hacked into the site using a "learning penetration testing software" which identified weaknesses.
The court heard he did not access medical information about any of the women.
When Jeffery was arrested, police found his computer was "in the process of being wiped clean".
Daniel Higgins, prosecuting, said: "In order to demonstrate that he had hacked the website, he posted the log-on details of Clare Murphy, who is the head of communications at the charity."
Mr Higgins said: "Clare Murphy states women who contact the charity are often in a vulnerable situation.
"They speak to teenagers who have not disclosed their pregnancy to their parents, women who have been victims of domestic violence and victims of sexual violence - many women for whom an unplanned pregnancy is a very private affair and would not wish to share this with others.
"The publication of the information would cause great anguish for women who contact the charity in confidence and would put some of these women at serious risk mentally and physically," he added.
Shaun Wallace, defending, said Jeffery initially hacked the site to test its vulnerability but added: "The more curious he became, the less responsible he became."
He said of his client: "He is not a staunch anti-abortionist. He is a bit of a computer whizkid."
Mr Wallace said Jeffery was a "part-time" member of the hacking group Anonymous.
But the judge said: "In my view, it is significant that the online name you used on Twitter was that of notorious criminal Pablo Escobar."
The court heard Jeffery wrote BPAS a letter of apology expressing remorse and suggesting ways they could improve their security.
Jeffery told police he had also identified "vulnerabilities" on websites belonging to the FBI, CIA, Houses of Parliament, West Midlands Police, US Navy, Arizona police and Spanish police.