Anonymous DDoS attacks cost PayPal £3.5m, court hears

Information Security

A Northampton student has been accused of taking part in a cyber attack that cost online payment portal PayPal 3.5 million.

Christopher Weatherhead is alleged to have joined forces with Anonymous hacktivists to stage an attack against PayPal over its refusal to process payments related to the funding of whistleblowing website Wikileaks.

Weatherhead, who was studying at Northampton University when the attacks took place, has pleaded not guilty to conspiring to impair the operation of computers between 1 August 2010 and 22 January 2011.

Those attacks caused unprecedented harm.

Several others, including Ashley Rhodes from Camberwell, South London, Peter Gibson, from Hartlepool and another male, who cannot be named for legal reasons, have already pleaded guilty to the same charge.

Weatherhead has been accused of using an Internet Relay Chat site to encourage people to take part in a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack on PayPal.

According to the BBC News site, prosecutor Sandip Patel is reported to have told the court: "It is the prosecution case that Christopher Weatherhead is a cyber-attacker and that he, and others like him, waged a sophisticated and orchestrated campaign of online attacks that paralysed a series of targeted computer systems.

"Those attacks caused unprecedented harm," he added.

The attack caused Paypal "enormous economic harm", he claimed, and more than 100 employees from PayPal's parent company eBay had to be enlisted to help repair the damage.

The company was also forced to invest in hardware and software to defend itself against similar attacks in future, which in total cost the firm 3.5 million.

The trial continues.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.