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Playboy 'hacker' jailed for two years

Extortion, blackmail, porridge

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A supermarket shelf stacker who claimed he hacked into Playboy's network in an attempt to blackmail the company was jailed for two years yesterday.

Simon Jones, 25, conned porn site bosses into believing he had access to private customer accounts. But his ruse backfired when US secret service agents and officers from the UK's National Hi-Tech Crime Unit carried out a dawn raid on the house he shared with his parents in Southampton, resulting in his arrest and eventual imprisonment.

The scam began when Jones (AKA Paymaster 69) got hold of a number of Playboy user accounts and passwords. He used this information in an attempt to dupe Playboy bosses into believing he was an elite hacker who had access to their entire customer database. He threatened to flog this supposed goldmine of information unless Playboy bosses paid him hush money. Playboy's website clocks up an estimated five million hits a day.

Jones, a science graduate who has failed to realise his dreams of working in IT, sent extortion notes from a PC in his bedroom. When Playboy paid him $100 (£60) to protect two customer accounts, Jones paid the money into his bank account creating a trail of evidence that led police straight to his door.

Jones pleaded guilty to blackmail when he appeared at Southampton Crown Court earlier this week. His lawyer, James Leonard, said his client was naive and committed his crimes out of mischief rather than greed. But Jones action's forced Playboy into mounting an internal security review, costing $6,500 (£3,400), and triggered an international investigation.

Jailing Jones for two years, Judge Boggis discounted this explanation. "This was a planned invasion. Your e-mail to Playboy set out your motive to extract money," he said.

A spokesman for Britain's National Hi-Tech Crime Unit, told The Daily Telegraph: "Playboy took the blackmail so seriously because Jones claimed to be part of a hacking group that had hacked into their secure server. Had he done this then US law would have required Playboy to tell all its customers their accounts had been accessed which would have been very embarrassing.

"Later we discovered he had not hacked into their server but had traded a couple of passwords with someone else on a website," he said. ®

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