Teenage hacker to be sentenced for internet 'crusade'

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The Independent Online

A teenage hacker whose campaign to expose holes in Internet security sparked an FBI investigation was being sentenced in court today.

Raphael Gray faced a possible jail sentence for posting thousands of credit card details on the Internet from his bedroom in a tiny Welsh hamlet.

Styling himself the "saint of e­commerce", the 19­year­old targeted American, British and Canadian companies in a "crusade" which caused one firm to fold and huge financial damage.

The then­unknown assailant, who sent Viagra to Microsoft boss Bill Gates by hacking into his credit card details, greatly troubled American government authorities.

A court heard that Gray, praised by one victim for making the Internet more secure, obtained access to 23,000 different credit cards by hacking into web sites.

Police on both sides of the Atlantic took a month to track down the hacker to his home in Clynderwen, Carmarthen, west Wales, where he was arrested by FBI agents in a "dramatic" swoop in March last year.

Gray called himself "Curador", a Portuguese word from the Latin for curator, on his Internet sites, e­crackers.com and freecreditcards.com, where he published details of his target companies and own beliefs.

There he wrote: "I'm for e­commerce when concluded in a secure and sensible manner but this is a rare thing.

"Most companies put some kind of page together and wait for the money to roll in. These people are the criminals."

In a message to the companies themselves, he said: "If your site is broken into, you should spend more time asking why and not who."

Gray had claimed he was authorised to access sites because there was no warning that access was prohibited.

A judge at Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court in south Wales adjourned sentencing in April for medical reports and indicated he was considering a custodial punishment.

The court heard that Gray, who has "massive promise" and "intellectual gift", was unemployed when he committed the offences but was now working in a computer software company where his talents were finally being appreciated.

The defence said that Gray, the third of five children, had lived an unremarkable school life until the age of 14 when he fell and banged his head, suffering serious physical and mental side effects and becoming interested in computers.

The prosecution said that Gray's actions were extreme and he took a pleasure from flouting the law.

Gray admitted two counts of obtaining services by deception after illegally accessing credit card details.

He also admitted eight counts of unauthorised access to customer databases of companies in the US, Britain and Canada, as well as two charges of obtaining services by deception.

Gray also admitted two offences of obtaining computer equipment and other items worth £1,399 by deception.

All the offences were committed between February 1 and March 1 last year. end