The U.K. teenager accused of launching a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) on the Port of Houston's IT systems was found not guilty at Southwark Crown Court on Friday of unauthorised modification of computer material. Even though both the defence and prosecution acknowledged that the attack had originated from Caffrey's computer, the defendant claimed his computer had been taken over by a hacker using a Trojan Horse program.
Aaron Caffrey, 19, was accused of being part of an elite hacking group, and having a DDoS script and the IP addresses of more than 11,000 vulnerable servers on his computer, but was found not guilty after the jury spent just a few hours considering the verdict before coming to a unanimous decision.
The denial of service attack on 20 September, 2001, which was traced to a computer at Caffrey's home by U.S. police, was allegedly aimed at taking a South African chatroom user called 'Bokkie' offline after she had made comments on IRC attacking the U.S. Caffrey allegedly took offence at the comments because his girlfriend at the time, Jessica, was American. While giving evidence last Friday, Caffrey said that although Jessica was his girlfriend at the time and he had known her for about a year, the relationship had been carried out solely over the Internet -- the two had never met in person.
Caffrey denied any knowledge of the attack and claimed that "evidence" of the attack, in the form of log files, was planted. This theory was blasted by Professor Neil Barrett, an expert witness at the trial who told the court that, after examining the physical location of data blocks on Caffrey's computer, there was no evidence that the log files had been altered at a later date.
Caffrey could have faced up to three years in prison.
ZDNet U.K.'s Munir Kotadia reported from London.