TalkTalk hacker who blackmailed six top execs in £77m cyber attack is jailed

A student who took part in a massive £77million hack on mobile network TalkTalk has been jailed for four years.

Daniel Kelley, 22, from Llanelli, south Wales, appeared at the Old Bailey in May after pleading guilty to 11 hacking-related offences.

A court previously heard was motivated out of 'spite or revenge' after he was turned down from a college computer course

He turned to "black hat" hacking when he failed to get the necessary GCSE grades.

The disgruntled student joined a group of cyber criminals who carried out the data breach in October 2015.

They would target companies large and small, as far afield as Canada and Australia, and attempted to hold bosses to ransom.

These included hacking with intent, six counts of blackmail, encouraging hacking, offering to supply data in connection with fraud, and possession of articles for fraud.

Prosecutor Peter Ratliff described Kelley as a "prolific, skilled and cynical cyber-criminal " who was willing to "bully, intimidate, and then ruin his chosen victims from a perceived position of anonymity and safety – behind the screen of a computer".

While he largely remained anonymous online, his crimes were revealed in snippets retrieved from chat logs, interest in Bitcoin accounts, and downloaded material, the court heard.

Mr Ratliff said Kelley had been "utterly ruthless".

He said: "Where confidential and sensitive information had been stolen in the hack – typically the personal and credit card details of the company's clients – the defendant would threaten the company with the public release of the material, knowing and exploiting the fact that the release would risk the ruin of the company concerned."

Kelley hacked into TalkTalk and blackmailed Baroness Harding of Winscombe and five other executives for Bitcoin, the court heard.

His activities contributed to TalkTalk losses of tens of millions of pounds, while smaller firms he targeted were forced to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds to mitigate the damage.

The defendant, who has Asperger's syndrome and depression, only received £4,400 worth of Bitcoin from his blackmail attempts, having made demands for more than £115,000.

The prosecutor said: "It is clear from the content of the emails that the defendant sent that he derived enjoyment and excitement from the power he wielded over those he sought to intimidate."

Last November, his accomplices Connor Allsopp, 21, and Matthew Hanley, 23, from Staffordshire, were jailed for a total of 20 months for their roles in the breach.

However, Kelley's sentence was delayed as he was facing trial for a separate hack that was committed whilst he was on bail for the Talk Talk offences.

In mitigation, Dean George QC had appealed to the judge to not impose a jail sentence on a young man who suffers "severe depression".

Mr George said: "There are some cases which are exceptional. Courts can make a difference to some people and this is one of those circumstances. It's a tough decision."

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