NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

E-mail computer hacker jailed after international scam

Matthew Anderson
Image caption Matthew Anderson admitted his role in the worldwide scam

A computer hacker who accessed personal data and photos from his mother's front room in a major e-mail scam has been jailed.

Father-of-five Matthew Anderson, 33, of Drummuir, Moray, who was part of an international gang, was caught after a Scotland Yard investigation.

He sent millions of worldwide e-mails which released a virus when opened, allowing remote control of computers.

Anderson was jailed for 18 months at Southwark Crown Court.

He admitted the Computer Misuse Act crime.

He was able to access private images, wills and confidential medical reports and CVs.

Major international organisations were also targeted in what prosecutor Hugh Davies described as a "fundamental breach of security".

Mr Davies said: "The conduct involved the repeated distribution of cleverly disguised e-mails, measured by the million, if not tens of millions, bearing sophisticated viruses."

Mr Davies described Anderson as being "part of the top-end international hacking community".

'Massive invasion'

Simon Ward, defending, said Anderson joined online chat rooms after being left housebound by panic attacks in his early 20s.

He said he had been motivated by "the feeling of power that comes from the knowledge that you have control over something that others don't know you have the control of".

He said Anderson had been a "foolish young man" but had now matured.

Judge Geoffrey Rivlin, sentencing, said Anderson's offending was on an "almost unimaginable scale".

He said: "Your motivation throughout, apart from the relatively small sums of money that you obtained by way of payment from the business leads, was the pleasure and satisfaction that you derived from achieving such a massive invasion into the personal lives of so many others and also the sense of power that invasion gave you.

"Whilst you may not have been engaged in fraud, it is fair to say that in an age in which computers play such an important part in the lives of so many people and businesses, an offence of this nature inevitably raises great concern and consternation."

He added: "It's difficult to conceive of a greater invasion of privacy.

"Conduct of this kind must be deterred. Plainly only a custodial sentence is justified for an offence of this nature."

'Held to account'

The judge also commended the major police investigation, saying it was "conducted to the highest standard".

Det Con Bob Burls, of the Metropolitan Police's central e-crime unit, said: "This organised online criminal network infected huge numbers of computers around the world, especially targeting UK businesses and individuals.

"Matthew Anderson methodically exploited computer users not only for his own financial gain but also violating their privacy.

"As this case shows, criminals can't hide online and are being held to account for their actions."

The offences happened between September 2005 and June 2006.

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