Teenage Hackers Charged with Card Data Theft Prosecuted

Jay Decenella, IT audit expert
May 17, 2011 /

Following an “extensive” investigation by the Metropolitan Police Service’s Police Central e-Crime Unit (PCeU), two teenage hackers who were accused of hacking online companies and stealing credit card data were prosecuted Friday.

The Greater London police department said in a press statement on Monday that it had found the teenage hackers belonging to the online criminal forum ‘GhostMarket’ responsible for the financial losses of Web hosting company ‘Punkyhosting’. The attack took place in April 2009.

Zachary Woodham, 19, and Louis Tobenhouse, 18, both from Brighton, south coast of Great Britain, were prosecuted Friday at Southwark Crown Court in connection with several cyber crimes and fraud offenses.

The announcement comes in the wake of UK chancellor George Osborne’s statement on the increasing threats of cyber crime faced by the government.

Speaking at the Google Zeitgeist event in Hertfordshire, Osborne said in 2010 alone the UK government sustained at least one serious attack on its computer systems every day. The attacks according to the chancellor have disrupted the progress in the government’s effort to publish the data related to public services on the Web, citing the recent attack on Sony.

Meanwhile, the PCeU said Punkyhosting detected the attacks and tried to ward them off. But Woodham, using the online handle ‘Colonel Root’, went on to attack the Web hosting company over several weeks that resulted in the closure of its business.

Woodham then gloated about the crime he committed to colleague Tobenhouse, who became part of his credit card data theft activities, among others, as revealed by further inquiries of PCeU. The two allegedly targeted online casinos/betting companies as well as other Web hosting businesses.

The PCeU found in subsequent examination of their computers thousands of credit card data that were stolen. Woodham used these cards to pay for access to several premium rate chat lines, thereby laundering the sum that he eventually transferred to his accounts.

Detective Constable Stuart Hosking, Police Central e-Crime Unit, said the “case illustrates that internet crime is not victimless.”

In March this year, the PCeU also busted four people participating in GhostMarket forums who were then sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.

GhostMarket was the same online forum where Woodham and Tobenhouse posted tutorials on how to break in to company Web sites, steal money online, and evade police capture.

Unfortunately for the two, police authorities captured them on December 23, 2010, during which the young hackers plead guilty to their offenses.

Woodham, a student at Sussex University, was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment and was suspended for two years. The Southwark Crown Court also ordered him to do an unpaid 240-hour community service.

Tobenhouse, a student of Havelock Road, Brighton, was sentenced only to 12 months of unpaid work.


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