Devon

British teen admits SeaWorld cyber attack, denies airline threats

Hands on a keyboard Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The boy pleaded guilty at Plymouth Youth Court to three cyber attack offences

A 16-year-old British boy has admitted launching cyber attacks on websites around the world.

The defendant, who cannot be named due to his age, admitted targeting Florida's SeaWorld theme park and Devon and Cornwall Police in the attacks.

The teenager, from Plymouth, pleaded guilty at the city's youth court to three offences, committed between October 2014 and January 2015.

He has denied two charges of sending bomb hoaxes to US airlines via Twitter.

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Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The boy admitted targeting SeaWorld's website in the cyber attacks

The defendant admitted three offences under Section 3 of the Computer Misuse Act, relating to denial of service attacks.

"A large part of the websites that I had taken down were to do with dolphin hunting," the boy told the court.

"I have always been for animal rights and I am really into computers and things so I thought, in protest, and to see what I could do, I would do it.

"I joined up with other people who were doing it. I was fighting for animal rights."

Prosecuting, Ben Samples told the court American Airlines received a threat allegedly made by the boy on Twitter on 13 February 2015.

He said the tweet read: "One of those lovely Boeing airplanes has a tick, tick, ticking in it. Hurry gentlemen, the clock is ticking."

FBI notified

The tweet was also tagged to the White House Twitter account and the FBI was notified, Mr Samples said.

No action was taken by the US authorities following an assessment of the credibility of the threat and the matter was passed to the UK authorities, the court heard.

A similar tweet was also sent to Delta Air Lines on the same day, Mr Samples said.

Image copyright Delta
Image caption The boy has denied two counts of sending bomb hoaxes to Delta Air Lines and American Airlines

Investigators from the Zephyr Regional Cyber Crime Unit traced the threats to the twitter account of the boy and seized his computer, the court heard.

The prosecution said the boy had changed his story about whether he sent the tweets during police interview, before finally denying the charges.

A twitter account used by the boy later tweeted the Zephyr Regional Cyber Crime Unit, saying "to be fair they caught me red handed" and "I still maintain the utmost respect for Zephyr", Mr Samples said.

The teenager was charged with the five offences in November following the investigation.

He has admitted three counts of doing an act to hinder access to a programme or data held in a computer.

Judge Diane Baker has retired to consider her verdict in the case and judgement is due next Wednesday.

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