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UK hacker jailed for nicking PayPal, banking data from MILLIONS

But York-based cybercrook only made £2.4k, court hears

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A UK cybercrook has been jailed for 26 months following his conviction for stealing millions of banking and PayPal identities, the Southwark Crown court confirmed to the Reg.

Edward Pearson, 23, from York, used information-stealing malware to harvest eight million personal identities between January 2010 and August 2011, the court heard. The vast majority of the information covered only names, addresses and dates of birth. However he also apparently managed to get his hands on compromised Paypal accounts and 2,700 bank cards.

The Daily Mail's report said Pearson had written a Python script to download the details of 200,000 PayPal accounts, obtaining names, passwords and balances in the process. He was said to have used variants of the ZeuS and SpyEye Trojans to steal personal information from PCs he managed to infect.

Pearson might have been able to cash out the compromised accounts and make hundreds of thousands in ill-gotten gains. But in the event he actually only made £2,400 before his 21-year-old student girlfriend, Cassandra Mennim, used stolen credit cards to book rooms at two upmarket York hotels, transactions that put police of the trail of the pair. Investigators then linked Pearson's email address to an online identity, G-Zero, which he was purported to have used on underground hacking forums.

After pleading guilty to fraud, Pearson was jailed for 26 months at a hearing at Southwark Crown Court. Mennim, from Newcastle, who admitted two counts of obtaining services by deception, has been placed on probation for 12 months, the York Press reports.

Pearson also is also allged to have hacked into Nokia’s network back in August 2011, prompting the telecoms giant to shut down its internal network for two weeks, the Daily Mail adds. The incident is not reckoned to have resulted in any incidents of fraud and did not form part of the charges against Pearson.

In sentencing Pearson, Judge Ms Recorder Ann Mulligan accepted that his primary motivation was not financial gain while roundly condemning his actions.

"This was a very sophisticated crime, in which you managed to access highly confidential information and put many many individuals at risk of attack," she said.

"I accept that you didn’t sell this information, but you shared it with other computer programmers, and you had no way of knowing how they might use this information. This stupendous criminality was not about financial gain, but about an intellectual challenge," she added.

A spokesman at Southwark Crown court listing's office confirmed the sentences. ®

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