Teenager 'hacked into cancer patient files'

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A TEENAGER charged with hacking offences dialled into confidential computer records for thousands of cancer patients, holding details of their life expectancy, a court was told yesterday, writes Susan Watts.

Hackers appeared to have adopted the user name 'field', and passwords normally reserved for test engineers to gain privileged access to computers, jurors at Southwark Crown Court in south London heard.

This included a network of three machines at the European Organisation for the Research and Treatment of Cancer in Brussels. Its database holds names, addresses, test results and 'survival status' of patients.

Paul Bedworth, 19, of Ilkley, West Yorkshire, was arrested and charged with offences under the Computer Misuse Act, 1990.

He denies conspiring dishonestly to obtain telecommunications, to gain unauthorised access to computers and to making unauthorised modifications to information on computers.

The court was told that hackers allegedly ran a mini 'scanning' program once inside the EORTC computer. This rogue program looped round and round trying 50,000 telephone links in an attempt to hook into other computers. The calls resulted in a 980- page bill for the cancer centre, which came to pounds 10,000.

The trial, which was adjourned after a juror became ill, is expected to resume today.