A YORK University graduate who was involved in a wave of cyber attacks walked free from court as two other self-styled “hacktivists” were jailed.
Peter Gibson, 24, of Castletown Road, Hartlepool, was given a six-month suspended sentence after he was deemed to have played a minor role in hacking group Anonymous.
Christopher Weatherhead, 22, of Holly Road, Northampton, was given an 18-month sentence at Southwark Crown Court, London, after being found guilty of conspiring to impair the operation of computers between August 1, 2010, and January 22, 2011.
Ashley Rhodes, 28, of Bolton Crescent, Camberwell, south London, admitted the same charge and was jailed for seven months.
Co-defendant Jake Birchall, 18, from Chester, will be sentenced later.
The hackers targeted companies whose views they disagreed with as part of so-called Operation Payback.
Initially the attacks hit those involved in anti-piracy and digital rights, including the British Recorded Music Industry (BPI), the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) and websites operated by the Ministry of Sound.
They then shifted their attention to payment sites which would not process donations to the Wau Holland Foundation, which raises funds for WikiLeaks.
Online payment website PayPal was targeted, at a cost to the company of £3.5m.
Mastercard and Visa websites were also hacked.
The attacks paralysed computer systems by flooding them with a huge number of online requests. Victims’ websites would be directed to a page displaying the message: “You’ve tried to bite the Anonymous hand. You angered the hive and now you are being stung.”
Judge Peter Testar said: “It is intolerable that when an individual or a group disagrees with a particular entity’s activities they should be free to curtail that activity by means of attacks such as those which took place in this case.”