London, Oct. 10 (Reuters): An English teenager, charged with hacking in and crippling a US seaport’s computer navigation system, told a court today his PC was hijacked by hackers posing as him.
Aaron Caffrey, 19, from Dorset, southwest England, was charged last year under the 1990 Computer Misuse Act and accused of unleashing a flood of data capable of knocking computers offline on a Houston, Texas, seaport in September 2001. He denies the charges.
Caffrey is accused of triggering the paralysing data blast on a vital computer server used to coordinate ship movements in the Houston port — the sixth biggest shipping port in the world, the court heard this week.
Caffrey said while the attack apparently was triggered from his computer, he was not the person behind it.
He said his machine may have been taken over by another individual or group who then set he digital onslaught in motion.
“My computer was completely and utterly vulnerable to many exploits,” Caffrey told Southwark Crown Court.
The soft-spoken Caffrey gave the court a technical description of how computer hackers can assume the identity of unsuspecting computer users through a variety of tricks.
Caffrey, who was the defence’s lone expert witness, said hackers could have fished out Caffrey’s security password to steal his online identity. Or, he said, they could have installed a “Trojan” programme — so named because they can take over a machine remotely.
Caffrey faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison if found guilty. A verdict was not expected until next week.
Prosecutors said Caffrey unleashed the attack to seek revenge on a South African chat room user called “Bokkie” who made anti-American comments in a chat room session in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US.
Caffrey took offence at the comments because his then girlfriend was American, prosecutor Paul Addison told the court.
The prosecution said the Houston computer server was caught in the digital cross-fire.
A British man described by UK police as the most prolific “Internet groomer” ever caught was jailed for five years yesterday after admitting he had tried to abduct a teenage girl.
Douglas Lindsell, 64, compiled explicit sexual profiles of more than 20 girls after gaining their trust via the MSN Internet chat forum where he pretended to be a teenage boy.
Police said in total he had “overtly sexual” correspondence with 54 girls in Britain and 19 abroad, obtaining their private e-mail addresses and cell phone numbers, with the express aim of persuading them to meet him. Lindsell managed to arrange to meet two of the girls, aged 13 and 14, and tried to entice them into his car. However the girls fled when they saw a grown man in the driver’s seat.
“The most prolific ‘Internet groomer’ ever caught was sentenced at Kingston Crown Court today,” the police said.