UK: Alex Bessell, 21, sentenced to two years in jail after admitting to numerous Computer Misuse Act offenses

A hacker who was responsible for thousands of cyber-attacks on firms around the world including Skype and Google has been jailed for two years.

Alex Bessell, 21, from Liverpool, was sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court today (18 January) after admitting to a number of offences under the Computer Misuse Act on 4 December at the same court.

Alex Bessell. Credit: West Midlands Police.

He was also convicted of various other offences, including money laundering, which were linked to the hacks.

As well as the cyber-attacks, Bessell was responsible for creating programmes for sale allowing others across the globe to conduct Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks and steal data.

Bessell (dob 13.09.1996) pleaded guilty to the following charges at Birmingham Crown Court on 4 December:

  • Two counts of: Doing an unauthorised act or acts with intent to impair, or with recklessness as to impairing the operation of a computer or computers, contrary to section 3 of the Computer Misuse Act 1990;
  • One count of: Unauthorised access with intent, contrary to section 2 of the Computer Misuse Act 1990;
  • Two counts of: Conspiracy to make an article for use in offences under Section 3 of the Computer Misuse Act 1990, contrary to section 1 (1) of the Criminal Law Act 1997;
  • One count of: Entering into or becoming concerned in a money laundering arrangement, contrary to section 328 (1) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002;
  • One count of: acquiring criminal property, contrary to section 329 (1) (a) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002;
  • Three counts of: conspiracy to make or supply an article for use in offences under section 3 of the Computer Misuse Act 1990, contrary to section 1 (1) of the Criminal Law Act 1997; and
  • One court of: Encouraging or assisting offences, contrary to section 46 of the Serious Crime Act 2007.

When police raided his home, his computer was found to hold 750 names and passwords from infected computers. It also held two programmes which are designed to infect computers and retrieve email, banking and log-in details from a web data form before passing it over the internet to a secure server.

He created an online marketplace and sold both his and others’ malware products which enabled users to spread viruses.

These included remote administration tools, denial of service packages, programmes to bypass anti-virus software and other malicious programmes. He took a cut of the sales and his earnings from cyber-crime exceeded US$50,000.

Bessell’s site advertised 9,077 items and it had 1,000,000 recorded visitors with over 34,000 sales.

He registered the company using a false address to give it a legitimate company status.

Bessell was arrested following an investigation by West Midlands police’s Cyber Regional Organised Crime Unit.

As part of his sentence, he was also given a Serious Crime Prevention Order.

Hannah Sidaway, for the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Bessell was responsible for the creation, use and distribution of computer malware from 2010 onwards – during which time law enforcement have seen this type of criminality grow at a phenomenal rate.

“His actions enabled others across the world to commit thousands of criminal attacks. Such activity can result in the compromising of personal data, extortion, loss of valuable data or work, loss of custom for businesses and a high cost to rectify the damage sustained.

“Bessell’s arrest and prosecution was a result of a lengthy and complex police operation, which spanned several countries and involved the collection and analysis of detailed data to identify him.  The CPS provided investigative advice to the police at an early stage to ensure a case was built that could lead to his charging and eventual prosecution.”

Source:  Crown Prosecution Service

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