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Scottish botnet master jailed for 18 months

Controlling the net from mum's front room

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'Being nosy, nothing more sinister than that'

Anderson's defence barrister, Simon Ward, said his motivation in the spying and data thefts was "a feeling of power that comes from control over something that other people don't know you have control over".

"It was the defendant being nosy, nothing more sinister than that," he said.

Ward said Anderson became interested in hacking in his early 20s, when a series of panic attacks led him to spend more time indoors.

By the time he commissioned Breplibot, Anderson was already on bail for orchestrating distributed-denial-of-service attacks against websites belonging to the British National Party and the Countryside Alliance. He was also running an unsuccessful legitimate computer security business, Opton-Security, which provided police with a vital link in their investigation of his malware operation.

In June 2006 security staff at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford found that a compromised machine on their network was being steathily controlled by a rented server at Fasthosts in Gloucester.

PCeU, led by Detective Constable Bob Burls, found that the server was registered to Winston Lay, and associated with an email address, warpiglet@gmail.com. Inquiries at Paypal and eBay in turn linked the email address to Matthew Anderson, and to Opton-Security, his legitimate business.

After four days of warranted interception of traffic to the Fasthosts server, Anderson, Lay and Artturi Alm, the Finnish virus writer, were all arrested in coordinated raids. Alm pleaded guilty in Finland in 2008 and was jailed for 18 days. Lay was not charged and there is no suggestion of any wrongdoing on his part.

DC Burls, whose investigation was formally commended by Judge Rivlin, said: "The internet means criminals have increased opportunities to commit crime internationally, however I'd like to reassure the public that the international law enforcement and anti-virus companies response is increasingly sophisticated.

"As this case shows, criminals can't hide online and are being held to account for their actions. A complex investigation like this demonstrates what international cooperation can achieve."

"Xaeti", an online friend of Anderson's, who according to the prosecution "was apparently a good programmer of viruses and an active member of online Trojan-producing community", also had control of the Fasthosts server. Believed to be a UK resident, he has not been traced. ®

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