Ateenage computer hacker who shutdown government networks across the world and sent bomb threats to US airlines from his bedroom, has walked free from court.
The 16-year-old from Plympton in Devon, began hacking the sites of organisations and governments he disagreed with when he was just 14.
Using a laptop computer in his bedroom, the schoolboy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, caused chaos targeting Iraq’s ministry of foreign of affairs, the department of agriculture in Thailand and China’s security ministry.
He also crashed computers in the Japanese town of Taiji, where an annual dolphin hunt takes place, and launched a cyber-attack the SeaWorld theme park in Florida almost half a million pounds.
He was eventually arrested after using Twitter to send bomb hoaxes to American Airlines, Delta Airlines and even the White House, telling them: “There’s a nice tick-tick in one of those lovely Boeing planes. Hurry gentlemen, the clock is ticking. High quality.”
After a run in with a local police officer he launched a cyber-attack on the Devon and Cornwall computer system, causing it to crash for almost an hour.
But when he appeared at Plymouth Youth Court, District Judge Diane Baker said she was sparing him a custodial sentence as it would “destroy him”.
She told the boy: “I think you got carried away by the fact you thought you were cool, you thought you were clever.
“You didn’t think of what truly happens in the real world if you do these things. I don’t think there would be any positive outcome for you going into a youth detention centre. I think it would destroy you.”
The teenager used Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks to cripple computer systems by bombarding them with data.
Ben Samples, prosecuting, said the boy was arrested in February last year after the airlines and the FBI deemed the threats as non-credible.
“Analysis of a laptop found at his address revealed conversations using Skype between him and another user,” Mr Samples said.
“During the conversation on February 14 the boy described hacking as a hobby. He also discussed the possibility of hacking Snapchat and leaking nude images.”
Ken Papenfus, representing the boy, said he had become involved in hacking after meeting people while playing video games online.
He said: “This was because his friends and his peer group at the time were, as they got older, getting involved in using drugs, using substances, getting into trouble with the police.
Addressing the court, the teenager, who wearing a white shirt and black trousers, said: “I just want to say that I am really sorry for everything that I have done. I didn’t really know how serious it was. I am sorry to my family.”
The boy was convicted of three offences under Section 3 of the Computer Misuse Act, relating to the DDoS attacks, and two under Section 51 of the Criminal Law Act for the bomb hoaxes.
The judge game him a two-year youth rehabilitation order and a two-year supervision order, and told him to attend 120 hours reparation and two courses.
The boy’s mother was told to pay £620 in prosecution costs and the court ordered that his computer be destroyed.