The hacker who stood up for WikiLeaks will be sentenced in January
The hacktivist, revealed to be the 22-year old Christopher Weatherhead, was convicted in Southwark crown court in London, for his role in the Anonymous collective’s attacks on PayPal and other financial sites in 2010, when they cut off funding for WikiLeaks.
The court found that Weatherhead led the Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks which flooded PayPal and other sites with requests, after the sites refused to handle donations to WikiLeaks, which at the time was publishing secret US Embassy messages. The attacks also involved other members of Anonymous: Ashley Rhodes, 28; Jake Birchall, 18; and Peter Gibson, 24.
Weatherhead was convicted on one count of conspiracy to impair the operation of computers, in accordance with the Criminal Law Act 1977. He has been freed on bail, and will be sentenced in January. Until that happens, the hacker will have to wear an electronic tag, abide by the midnight-to-4am curfew and stay away from IRC chat. He is also forbidden from posting under any name but his own.
Anonymous started life as a collective of “hacktivists” opposing the music industry’s actions against file-sharers, which they regarded as excessive, but has branched out into more political and anarchistic actions.
When WikiLeaks came under fire for publishing US embassy documents, Anonymous aligned itself with the site founded by Julian Assange, and attacked those trying to block its activities, including finance sites which stopped transferring money to WikiLeaks organisation.
However in October, several Anonymous spokespeople sharply criticised the WikiLeaks’ decision to put some of its content behind a ‘paywall’ to encourage donations. The group noted that several members of Anonymous have been indicted for attacks in support of WikiLeaks, and described the misguided fundraising efforts as “betrayal”.
“Regardless of any workarounds, the fact remains that a meretricious page is placed for the majority of visitors that cannot be closed. The obvious intention is to force donations in exchange for access. This is a filthy and rotten, wholly unethical action – and Anonymous is enraged,” wrote the hacktivist collective.
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