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Web designer-turned-hacker avoids jail

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The boss of a British website design firm has received a suspended jail sentence after pleading guilty to hacking into a competitor's website.

Mark Hopkins, 31, of Bromsgrove in the West Midlands pleaded guilty in July to unauthorised access to computer systems, offences contrary to Section One of the Computer Misuse Act. He was given a five months sentence (suspended for two years) and ordered to serve 100 hours community service at a sentencing hearing on Thursday. Hopkins was also ordered to pay £5,000 compensation to his victim, ME Publishing Limited, the publisher of Motorcycle Trader, and £2,500 police and prosecution costs.

The case began in September 2005 when ME Publishing was advised by its web consultancy that its website www.motorcycletrader.net had been compromised by hackers who downloaded sensitive information from the site. The Motorcycle Trader website and other websites operated by ME Publishing were closed down for a number of days as its techies assessed the consequences of the attack.

Consultants hired by ME Publishing traced the attack to a PC located in the offices of NXGN Limited in Solihull. NXGN supplies various web services to companies such as Motorcycle News, British Dealer News, Yamaha, Suzuki, Triumph and Fish4Bikes, among others.

NXGN denied involvement in that attack, prompting ME Publishing to turn its files over to the Metropolitan Police. Mark Hopkins, managing director of NXGN, was subsequently arrested and charged by the Met police's Computer crime unit.

"Today's sentencing is yet another example of how industry and the police are working together to tackle those who would commit e-crime," said DC Mark Roberts, of the Met Police computer crime unit. ®

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