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Last Updated: Monday, 6 October, 2003, 16:29 GMT 17:29 UK
US port 'hit by UK hacker'
Aaron Caffrey
Mr Caffrey was said to be targeting a fellow chatroom user
A teenager brought the computer systems of a major American port to a halt during a revenge attack on a fellow internet chatroom user, a court has heard.

Aaron Caffrey, 19, allegedly hacked into the computer server at the Port of Houston in Texas in order to target a female chatroom user following an argument.

It was claimed that the teenager intended to take the woman's computer offline by bombarding it with a huge amount of useless data, and he needed to use a number of other servers to be able to do so.

Mr Caffrey, of Fairlane, Shaftesbury, Dorset, denies one charge of unauthorised modification of computer material contrary to Section 3(1) of the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

The attack could have had catastrophic repercussions to life and limb of those reliant on the computer in the port of Houston
Paul Addison, prosecuting
He had targeted the chatroom user, called Bokkie, after they argued over anti-American remarks she had made, Paul Addison, prosecuting, told Southwark Crown Court.

Mr Caffrey, who suffers from Asperger's Syndrome - a form of autism - was said to be in love with an American girl called Jessica at the time.

The jury heard that he was so obsessed with Jessica he named his computer after her and dedicated part of his attack script to her.

Mr Addison explained to the court that the attack saw scheduling computer systems at the port, which is the eighth largest in the world, bombarded with thousands of electronic messages on 20 September, 2001.

Evidence 'planted'

The attack left the port's web service, which contained crucial data for shipping pilots, mooring companies and support firms responsible for helping ships navigate in and out of the harbour, inaccessible.

It is thought to be the first time that part of a country's national infrastructure has been disabled by an electronic attack.

Mr Addison said: "The attack could have had catastrophic repercussions to life and limb of those reliant on the computer in the port of Houston.

"The data on the server contains information on navigation, tides, water depths and weather.

"No injury or damage was, in fact, caused."

Following an investigation, American authorities were able to trace the computer's internet provider number to a computer at Mr Caffrey's home.

Mr Caffrey was arrested and questioned by police in January 2002.

He told police he was being exploited by other hackers who launched the attack and planted evidence in his hard drive.

The case continues.



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