Teen wreaks email havoc

Losses & Lawsuits

A teenager who had been sacked from his part-time job with Domestic and General, a UK insurance firm, took his revenge on his former bosses by sending them some five million emails over a period of days.

The emails were designed to look like they came from famous people - such as Bill Gates - or from other employees at the insurer. As a result, David Lennon - who was just 16 at the time of the attack - became the first person in the UK to admit a 'denial of service' offence under the 1990 Computer Misuse Act. Although he could have been jailed for up to five years, he was instead given an electronic tag and a two-month curfew by the court.

According to news reports, Lennon used an email 'bombing' programme called Avalanche, which fired off emails in rapid succession until the servers at Domestic and General collapsed under the weight of the traffic in the UK, France, Spain and Germany. The emails quoted a warning from a horror film, The Ring, saying "You will die in seven days". The incident cost the company £30,000.

It took three years to bring the case to a conclusion because last November a judge ruled that there was no case to answer as the insurer's systems were designed to receive emails. However, in May, the prosecution successfully appealed. A senior officer from the Metropolitan Police's Computer Crime Unit praised Domestic and General for the firm's co-operation with authorities.

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