hH? - controversy '96

Third article relating to Controversy '96...

Net closing on high profile hackers

Three People Have Been Questioned About The Pre-election Tampering With Labour's Web Site, reports Mike McCormack

The police investigation into last December's hack of the Labour Party Web page appears to be gaining momentum. Three Manchester-based men, all aged between 19 and 26, are helping Scotland Yard's Computer Crime Unit with its inquiries.

Members of Britain's hacking community have rated the CCU as "odds-on favourite to win a conviction" as details of arrests and raids filter through the online grapevine.

The Labour Party hack, which is alleged to have been executed from Manchester's Cyberia cafe last December, changed images of the then Shadow Cabinet to Spitting Image puppets and linked the Labour Women homepage to an Amsterdam sex shop.

The exploit was widely celebrated early this year and the hacked pages appeared in numerous international "Best of the Illegal Web" sites. But the CCU's investigative success has dampened spirits among Britain's hackers.

"It looks like the police now have the skills to at least identify and pressure hackers, if not get convictions," said one seasoned hacker. "Most people would think twice now before committing a high-profile hack."

A Scotland Yard spokesman declined to comment on progress, saying the investigation was still open and no one had yet been charged with an offence.

The mood of Britain's hacking community was further depressed last week when Leon Fitch, 21, appeared at Southwark Crown Court charged with nine separate violations of the Computer Misuse Act and one charge of possessing software with intent to defraud. A controversial figure in the electronic underground, Fitch had hosted several Web pages devoted to the technical workings of telephone exchanges. Over the past three years, he has been a vocal contributor to debates over electronic privacy.

[The Daily Telegraph: Tuesday 23/09/1997 (Connected, page 3)]

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