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

Judge: No excuse for targeting the vulnerable


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." ®

Similar topics

Broader topics

Narrower topics


Other stories you might like

  • Experts: AI should be recognized as inventors in patent law
    Plus: Police release deepfake of murdered teen in cold case, and more

    In-brief Governments around the world should pass intellectual property laws that grant rights to AI systems, two academics at the University of New South Wales in Australia argued.

    Alexandra George, and Toby Walsh, professors of law and AI, respectively, believe failing to recognize machines as inventors could have long-lasting impacts on economies and societies. 

    "If courts and governments decide that AI-made inventions cannot be patented, the implications could be huge," they wrote in a comment article published in Nature. "Funders and businesses would be less incentivized to pursue useful research using AI inventors when a return on their investment could be limited. Society could miss out on the development of worthwhile and life-saving inventions."

    Continue reading
  • Declassified and released: More secret files on US govt's emergency doomsday powers
    Nuke incoming? Quick break out the plans for rationing, censorship, property seizures, and more

    More papers describing the orders and messages the US President can issue in the event of apocalyptic crises, such as a devastating nuclear attack, have been declassified and released for all to see.

    These government files are part of a larger collection of records that discuss the nature, reach, and use of secret Presidential Emergency Action Documents: these are executive orders, announcements, and statements to Congress that are all ready to sign and send out as soon as a doomsday scenario occurs. PEADs are supposed to give America's commander-in-chief immediate extraordinary powers to overcome extraordinary events.

    PEADs have never been declassified or revealed before. They remain hush-hush, and their exact details are not publicly known.

    Continue reading
  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022