Hacker jailed after blackmailing porn site users with malicious ads

Blackmailer Zain Qaiser spent his money on luxury hotel stays, gambling and a Rolex watch. Picture: PA
Blackmailer Zain Qaiser spent his money on luxury hotel stays, gambling and a Rolex watch. Picture: PA
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A hacker who blackmailed porn website users in what investigators say is the UK’s most serious cyber crime case has been jailed for six years and five months.

Zain Qaiser targeted millions of computers with malicious browser-locking software that demanded payment of up to $1,000 (£767) to unfreeze the screens, Kingston Crown Court heard.

The 24-year-old, who worked with an international Russian crime group, received more than £500,000 through the multi-million-pound global scheme, which he spent on luxury hotel stays, gambling and a Rolex watch.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) considers it the most serious case of cyber crime it has investigated, the court heard.

Passing sentence yesterday, Judge Timothy Lamb said: “The harm caused by your offending was extensive – so extensive that there does not appear to be a reported case involving anything comparable. Whatever your motivation for mounting these attacks on the internet, you took the opportunity to spend large sums of ill-gotten money in casinos, on an expensive watch and luxury hotel services.

“All the constituent offences were part and parcel of your role as the self-styled ‘K!NG’ of the internet. It has been asserted on your behalf you are remorseful. I have seen no outward expression of that.”

The former computer science student committed most of his crimes between the age of 18 and 19.

Qaiser, of Barking in east London, used the online name K!NG to buy masses of advertising on porn sites using fake identities, prosecutor Joel Smith said. But when users clicked the corrupted links, their computers were exposed to highly sophisticated “Angler” software.

Infected computers showed a message impersonating law enforcement in the user’s country, saying an offence had been committed and demanding hefty payments.

The crime group collected massive multi-million-pound profits from victims in more than 20 countries, although the total number of people who paid the fee is unknown, the NCA said.

Some advertisers were “happy to turn a blind eye” to Qaiser’s actions, but those who tried to stop him “became the subject of the defendant’s anger”, Mr Smith told the court.

Qaiser then blackmailed them and tried to flood their servers with distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, putting the sites out of action.