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Hacker jailed for 32 months for attack on abortion-provider site

Judge: No excuse for targeting the vulnerable

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A self-identified member of Anonymous was jailed for two years and eight months on Friday over a hacking attack against Britain's biggest abortion provider in March.

James Jeffery, 27, from Wednesbury, West Midlands, swiped around 10,000 records of women who had registered with the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) in an attack that also involved the defacement of the service's website with the Anonymous logo.

The court heard that Jeffery had used a Twitter account under the handle of infamous Colombian drug lord 'Pablo Escobar' to brag about the assault and publish the name and log-on details of a BPAS administrator. He also threatened to release the personal data of people who had sought pregnancy counselling or other sexual health advice through the service – but he failed to follow through on this threat.

In a statement at the time, BPAS stressed that no medical or personal information regarding women who received treatment at the service had been obtained during the attack.

Jeffery was arrested days after the attack and subsequently admitted to offences which included gaining unauthorised access to data held on the BPAS systems as well as other computer hacking crimes. He was jailed at a hearing at Southwark Crown Court on Friday. During the hearing, the court heard that Jeffrey had been in contact with Hector Xavier "Sabu" Monsegur, the alleged LulzSec kingpin turned FBI supergrass, for almost a year.

The former software engineer had targeted the BPAS because he "disagreed" with the decisions of two women he knew to terminate their pregnancies, The Guardian reports.

During sentencing, Judge Michael Gledhill QC said:

Those who find abortion repugnant do not use it as an excuse to justify deliberately committing offences. Your skills are so good that you decided to hack into their [BPAS's] website and you succeeded.

You stole the records of approximately 10,000 women. Many of them were vulnerable women, vulnerable simply because they had had a termination or because of their youth or because their family did not know about their situation.

You were proud about what you had done - you boasted about it on Twitter.

The sentence that I impose is both to punish you for what you have done and to send out a clear message of deterrence to anyone tempted to commit similar hacking offences.

Commenting after the sentencing of Jeffery on Friday, BPAS chief executive Ann Furedi said: "This was one of the most extreme examples of anti-abortion activity we have seen. We are grateful to the police for the swift action they took to apprehend Mr Jeffery and are glad the matter is now resolved." ®

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