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A Year Ago: Briton accused of Middle Eastern hacking

Brit faces serious charges for alleged hacking in Arab Emirates
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Written by Will Knight on

A British man has been arrested and charged with computer hacking in the United Arab Emirates after allegedly breaking into the country's telecommunications system reports said Monday.

It is believed this is the first time anyone has been arrested in connection with computer crime in a Middle Eastern country.

The 21-year-old Briton, Lee Ashurst, a computer engineer in Dubai, was reportedly caught by security specialists at the Emirates national Telecommunications (Etisalat) and arrested Saturday. He was formally charged and released on bail several hours later.

The maximum sentence for this type of crime is six months in prison.

"We do not know if there will be other suspects," Dubai Attorney General Ibrahim Bu Melha told provincial newspaper, Gulf News. "This depends on Etisalat's detailed technical report. We cannot say yet if there was a hacking network or not, if it was intentional damage. We cannot yet say if Etisalat or other companies were affected."

Bu Melha added that the case highlights the need for amendments to the country's criminal law. "It has become urgent to issue legislation which classifies high technology crimes and stipulates penalties for them," he said.

News of Ashurst's arrest follows serious disruption to Etisalat's Internet service over the past two weeks. A company statement blamed the disruption on security maintenance.

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