Hacker dodges prison term

Suspended prison sentence is given to a hacker for compromising and defacing a dating site
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

A hacker has been sentenced to eight months imprisonment, suspended for two years, for compromising accounts on an Internet dating site.

Matthew Byrne pleaded guilty to gaining control of and defacing four member profiles on the loveandfriends.com dating site in August 2004. He was sentenced on Tuesday at Southwark Crown Court by Judge Geoffrey Rivlin, according to a Metropolitan Police spokesman.

Byrne gained control of the profiles using a dictionary attack, a technique that cracks a password or cipher by searching against a number of likely possibilities. The compromised profiles had "easily guessable" passwords, the Met Police website said.

The hacker did not gain access to the "loveandfriends" database or web servers.

Byrne was traced, identified and arrested by the Metropolitan Computer Crime Unit, after the defacement was reported by loveandfriends.com. He admitted the offence. Forensic examination of his computer and media also revealed that he was responsible for the writing of the "MIRSA .A and MIRSA B" mass-mailing worms.

Alerts for these mass mailers were issued by antivirus vendors in early 2005.

Byrne pleaded guilty to an offence under Section Three of the Computer Misuse Act 1990, which deals with the modification of the content of computer systems. His suspended sentence has a two-year supervision order.

Judge Rivlin said it was "a very serious case, which was on the custody threshold", according to the Metropolitan police.

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