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Former student sentenced for cyber attack on national research and education network

A computer hacker, who carried out a sustained attack on the UK’s national research and education network (NREN) that disrupted connected organisations for several hours, has avoided jail.

Former student Jack Chappell, 19, from Curtis Road, Stockport, was given a 16-month sentence suspended for two years.

He began his attacks in December 2015 and launched further crimes in 2016.

Chappell caused large-scale disruption to the Janet Network specifically targeted the Janet network infrastructure, changing his attack as the result of information being provided to members via Twitter.

The network is owned and run by Jisc, whose chief executive Paul Feldman said: “As soon as we were aware of the problem, we worked hard to assist police in exposing the perpetrator and bringing him to justice.

“Cyber crime is an increasing problem (the Office for National Statistics reports that digital devices are involved in 47.4% of all UK crime) so we are very pleased to have been able to assist the police in their investigation of this case; it sends a strong message to other would-be attackers that such criminal behaviour will not be tolerated.”

Chappell’s crimes, which also included assisting attacks on some of the world’s largest organisations, including Amazon, BBC, BT, Netflix, Virgin Media, Vodafone and the National Crime Agency, were investigated by the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU) and West Midlands Police.

He pleaded guilty and was sentenced at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court on 19 December, 2017. With regard to the attack on the NREN, Chappell admitted one count of unauthorised access to a computer with the intent to impair operations.

Det Sgt Rob Bryant, from SEROCU’s Cyber Crime Unit, said: “Throughout the investigation we worked closely with Jisc.  We would like to thank them for their assistance, particularly in providing key details and technical evidence which helped to locate the defendant and bring him to justice.”

About Jisc: Jisc is the UK’s expert member organisation for digital technology and digital resources in higher education, further education, skills and research. Our vision is to make the UK the most digitally advanced education and research nation in the world.

We play a pivotal role in the development, adoption and use of technology by UK universities and colleges, supporting them to improve learning, teaching, the student experience and institutional efficiency, as well as enabling more powerful research. 

At the heart of Jisc’s support is Janet – the UK’s world-class National Research and Education Network (NREN). Owned, managed and operated by Jisc, Janet comprises a secure, state-of-the-art network infrastructure spanning all four nations of the UK.

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