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Default Student Nearly brought down the £31bn Facebook Empire

Student who hacked Facebook from his bedroom 'could have brought down the £31bn empire'

  • Glenn Mangham was jailed for eight months today
  • Panicked FBI suspected case of industrial espionage
  • 26-year-old said he had been testing system for flaws

By Daily Mail UK

Last updated at 6:16 PM on 17th February 2012

A student who hacked Facebook from his bedroom in York, and could have brought down the entire £31billion empire, was jailed for eight months today.

Glenn Mangham, 26, infiltrated the website’s core in 'the most extensive and grave incident of social media hacking to be brought before the British courts'.
His theft of valuable computer code from the company, caused panic among authorities including the FBI, who feared it was a case of industrial espionage.



Glenn Mangham (left), 26, who hacked Facebook from his bedroom in York, was jailed for eight months today. Pictured last year with his father, also called Glenn

Judge Alistair McCreath at Southwark Crown Court asked: 'He could have brought down the whole empire presumably?'
Prosecutor Sandip Patel replied: 'Potentially, yes.'

The software development student from York downloaded 'highly sensitive intellectual property' including valuable computer 'code' when he hacked the world’s largest social network between April and May last year.
Mangham - who it is believed has Asperger's and was said to have 'no social life' - claims that his work was 'ethical hacking' and he breached the security so that he could find vulnerabilities within the site, which the developers could then strengthen.




Security breach: Glenn Mangham infiltrated the website in 'the gravest' example of social media hacking to come before the British courts

However, Judge McCreath told him: 'This was not just a bit of harmless experimentation - you accessed the very heart of the system of an international business of massive size.
'This was not just fiddling about in the business records of some tiny business of no great importance and you acquired a great deal of sensitive and confidential information to which you were simply not entitled.'

He added: 'Potentially what you did could have been utterly disastrous to Facebook.




IT skills: Billionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, 27, is just a year older than the student whose bedroom hacking threatened his site

'You and others who attempt to hack really must understand how serious this is, the creation of that risk the extent of that risk and the cost of putting things right.'

Mr Patel said: 'He hacked into the social media website Facebook, he did so from his bedroom in York, and he ultimately stole invaluable and highly sensitive intellectual property which he downloaded on to an external hard drive.
'It represents the most extensive and grave incident of social media hacking to be brought before the British courts.
'He acted with determination, undoubted ingenuity and it was sophisticated, it was calculating, and he secured what the Crown say was his ultimate goal.
'It triggered a concerted and time-consuming investigation involving the authorities in America including the FBI who worked with the Met police in the UK.'

In the tax year ending 2011, Facebook was valued at $50billion and generated $4billion in profits based on its intellectual property.
Mangham is only a year younger than the website's founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg - one of the world's youngest billionaires.

Mr Patel said: 'It was internal communications amongst Facebook employees and the intellectual property he was accessing and stealing was to do with the way Facebook itself is run internally.

'It was some of the code of Facebook, it is the very value which is ascribed to Facebook because it is the intellectual property by which it is measured.'
The gifted student, who told police he was looking for a 'mini project' when he targeted the site, first hacked into the puzzle server, which sets tests for potential employees.

He stole invaluable and highly sensitive intellectual property which he downloaded on to an external hard drive. He acted with determination, undoubted ingenuity and it was sophisticated.
- PROSECUTOR SANDIP PATEL

He also uploaded his own programs on to the server.

Bypassing security and accessing the protected internal systems he 'hacked and hijacked' the account of employee Stefan Parker and managed to reset his password.

Using the employee's details he then accessed the ‘mailman server’ and the ‘phabricator server’ which contains the sites most sensitive intellectual property.
Mangham said that although he knew he was breaking the law he thought the company would be 'grateful' for his information based on his previous experience.
He told the court: 'It was to identify vulnerabilities in the system so I could compile a report for lack of a better word that I could then bundle off to Facebook and show them what was wrong with their systems.'
Mangham has his own business set up, and is tax registered as a 'security consultant'.
Mr Patel alleged that he was not simply trying to exploit vulnerabilities, adding: 'This was clearly not his sole purpose, his actions were ultimately disruptive and intentionally malicious.'

Facebook discovered the security breach during a system check and, despite his efforts to delete his digital footprint, Mangham was arrested by the Met’s e-Crime unit last June.

He pleaded guilty to three counts of securing unauthorised access to computer material with intent and one of unauthorised access to computer material.

He denied a further charge of making, supplying or obtaining articles for use in computer offences and this was left to lie on the file.
His internet use was restricted for five years in a similar way as child porn offenders where officials can check on his usage and he cannot delete his history.
Facebook has paid out $200,000 in investigating the breach.

Web rival Yahoo! has previously paid him more than £7,000 for discovering vulnerabilities in its systems.

Mr Patel added: 'The prosecution do not accept his actions were anything but malicious.'
Tony Ventham, in mitigation, said: 'He did panic when he was caught.

'By that time he hadn't had the opportunity to say "Look I have found this vulnerability in your system."
When asked why he didn't tell the company about the breach earlier, he said: 'I thought "this will have a nice dramatic effect when I tell them".'

The student, a Arthur Conan Doyle fan, went by the online name 'Gamma Ray' and saw the Facebook hack as 'challenge', it was claimed.

'This is someone who in previous times would have thrown everything aside to seek the source of the Nile and he would have continued until he did,' Mr Ventham added.
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