Cybercriminal teen hacked prison mainframe while taking IT course

Details emerge at industrial tribunal

One of the UK's most skilled and successful convicted cybercriminals was allegedly able to hack into his prison's mainframe after being allowed to take an IT course, an industrial tribunal hearing has heard.

The extraordinary events at the Her Majesty's Young Offender's institution 'Isis' in London emerged at an unfair dismissal claim brought by former Kensington and Chelsea College IT teacher Michael Fox, sacked - he claims in part - for allowing inmate Nicholas Webber, then 21, to break into the prison's educational server while under his instruction in 2011.

According to The Daily Mail Although Fox was reportedly cleared of responsibility a year ago by his college employer, he believes the incident contributed to his being made redundant later in the year.

Given Webber's prodigious hacking skills, why he was allowed to attend the IT course without careful supervision remains a mystery; anyone studying his criminal record sheet or the infamous image (inset) of hm smoking a cigarette in front of hs keyboard would have quickly clocked the risks.

In 2009 Webber and his accomplices in the notorious British gang were arrested by chance after attempting to pay a £1,000 London hotel bill using a stolen credit card.

After studying a laptop found in their possession, police discovered that the men had access to 100,000 stolen credit cards worth an estimated £12 million ($18 million).

Webber and fellow hacker Ryan Thomas, 18, jumped bail before being arrested when they returned to the UK from Spain in early 2010. Webber was eventually sentenced to five years in prison for his activities.

It is not believed that Webber did any serious damage to the HMP Isis prison mainframe while accessing it during the lesson although what he was able to access during the alleged probe remains unclear.

Fox argued to the tribunal that he should not be held responsible for the incident as he was not aware that Webber was convicted for hacking offences. The hearing is set to continue next month.

The incident has a conceptual similarity to the embarrassing problems that affected Glenochil high-security prison in Scotland in 2005, when a state-of-the-art keyless PIN and fingerprint system allowing prisoners to move around the complex was abandoned after being reverse engineered (the polite term) by prisoners.

Having wasted £3 million on the system, the prison reportedly returned to the more reliable and cheaper option of using keys.

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John E Dunn

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