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Brit student locked up for Facebook source code hack

Unfriended, unliked, unfree

A British computer science student was jailed for eight months on Friday for hacking into the internal network at Facebook.

Glenn Mangham, 26, previously pleaded guilty to hacking into the social networking site between April and May last year. The incident created a flap at Facebook amid fears that hackers were attempting to extract the software blueprints of the website.

Mangham slurped Facebook's source code, hoping to work on it at some later date for the web behemoth. The prosecution accepted that Mangham's actions were not maliciously intended but said they were unauthorised. The student attempted to hide his tracks, a factor that was taken by the court as evidence that he knew what he was doing was wrong.

The intrusion was detected by Facebook and reported to the FBI, which passed the case over to the British police. They traced the hack back to Mangham's parents' house in York, leading to a raid last June and the subsequent prosecution of the undergraduate geek. Mangham claimed he had been motivated by a desire to help Facebook improve its security, something he had previously done with Yahoo!

The prosecution disputed this interpretation of events, arguing Mangham's actions were clearly malign. "He acted with determination and undoubted ingenuity and it was sophisticated, it was calculating," prosecuting counsel Sandip Patel told London's Southwark Crown Court. "This represents the most extensive and grave incident of social media hacking to be brought before the British courts."

In sentencing, Judge Alistair McCreath told Mangham his actions were anything but far from harmless and had "real consequences and very serious potential consequences" for Facebook, the BBC reports.

"You and others who are tempted to act as you did really must understand how serious this is," the judge said. "The creation of that risk, the extent of that risk and the cost of putting it right mean at the end of it all I'm afraid a prison sentence is inevitable."

Facebook stressed that no user data was involved in the breach, which cost the social network an estimated $200,000 in investigation costs and other expenses.

"We applaud the efforts of the Metropolitan Police and the Crown Prosecution Service in this case, which did not involve any compromise of personal user data," the social network said in a statement. "We take any attempt to gain unauthorised access to our network very seriously, and we work closely with law enforcement authorities to ensure that offenders are brought to justice." ®

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