By John Leyden
8th November 2006
A Nottinghamshire man who attacked the website of London dating agency
loveandfriends.com has avoided imprisonment.
Matthew Byrne, 38, from Kirkby-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, was given a
suspended sentence of eight months imprisonment, suspended for two
years, at a sentencing hearing at London's Southwark Crown Court on
Tuesday. He was also sentenced to two years supervision order after
pleading guilty to computer hacking offences (unauthorised modification
of a computer contrary to section three of the Computer Misuse Act 1990)
at an earlier hearing in September.
Byrne was charged in May following a year-long investigation by officers
at the Computer Crime Unit at Scotland Yard over an August 2004 attack
on loveand friends.com. He used brute force methods to find easily
guessable passwords in order to gain illicit access to four profiles on
These profiles were subsequently defaced. Byrne then made demands for
payment in exchange for holding off on threats to delete the firm's
database. Andy MacCabe, managing director of loveandfriends, said at the
time that the attacker only had member level access to four profiles
with weak passwords. The hacker did not at any time gain access to the
loveandfriends financial database or web servers despite threats to the
Byrne was charged with extortion over these demands but these charges
were subsequentally dropped. After tracing Byrne to his then home in
Sheffield, Met Police officers recovered evidence that he was
responsible for writing the Mirsa-A and Mirsa-B mass mailing worms,
which posed as messages from campaign group Fathers 4 Justice. The
campaign group condemned the attack.
In sentencing Byrne, Judge Geoffrey Rivlin commended the investigative
work of DC Billington and DC Sheikh. Byrne's offences were on the cusp
of meriting a custodial sentence, Judge Rivlin said.
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