23-year-old Edward Pearson of York, Northern England, will spend two years and two months behind bars for his hacking spree. The sentence would have been greater if he made more use of the huge amount of stolen data.
The British hacker used the Zeus and SpyEye Trojans to steal confidential data from U.K. victims between January 1, 2010, and August 30, 2011, from an undisclosed source. On his computers, police found 200,000 stolen PayPal accounts, 2,701 bank card numbers, as well as 8,110,474 names, dates of birth, and postcodes of U.K. residents. If all the details of what he had harvested were printed out, it would fill 67,500 double-sided A4 pages, according to authorities.
Using the handle G-Zero, he also hacked into the networks of Nokia and AOL, copying the personal details of more than 8,000 staff members. Following his intrusion, Nokia's internal network was down for two weeks.
"This is a young man who has very advance computer skills, but has put them to the wrong use, but he is not the criminal mastermind that everyone claims he is," Andrew Bodnar, Pearson's lawyer, said in court last week, according to the Daily Mail. "The total amount of money he fraudulently amounted, is the figure of £2,351. These have been done using the Paypal accounts, to order pizza and other takeaway foods, and to pay for mobile phone accounts. It is fair to say that he produced the Trojan, Zeus and other software as an intellectual challenge, and he hacked into Nokia to see if he could."
His hacking spree came to a screeching halt not long after 21-year-old Cassandra Mennim, his girlfriend, tried to pay for two luxury hotels in York with forged credit cards. She was sentenced to 12 months of supervised release.
Pearson used his G-Zero alias on cybercrime forums for years before he was caught for his various security breaches. In 2009, he tried to share an online video ripping system on the DigitalSpy forum, and when he registered for it, he used his real name, e-mail address, home address, and phone number. This is how the police linked Pearson's G-Zero alias to his e-mail address and then his real identity.
The original charges show that Pearson and his girlfriend were also dealing the drug MDVP, but these were dropped. Pearson admitted to making an article for use in fraud and two counts of possession of an article for use in fraud. Mennim admitted to two counts of obtaining services dishonestly.
A prosecutor in the case said Pearson would have made off with more than $13 million if he hadn't been caught. Thankfully, he only managed to steal about £2,351 ($3,736), which he mainly used to order fast food and to pay off his cellphone bills, before he was arrested.