Jailed hacker allowed into IT class, hacks prison computers

Nicholas Webber, serving five years for creating a hacker's forum site, is somehow invited into an IT class in jail. The consequences are difficult.

The Isis prison is quite modern. BhamUrbanNewsUK/YouTube Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

They're arguing now about who let it happen, but happen it did, with entertaining consequences.

Somehow Nicholas Webber found himself in an IT class while in jail. He's serving five years for creating a site called GhostMarket, which allowed those interested in creating computer viruses, partaking of stolen IDs and enjoying private credit card data to congregate.

He was caught using hacked personal information to buy everything from iPods to luxury hotel stays.

One might have thought that an IT class would have been quite dull for him. One might also have thought that inviting him to an IT class might encourage him to enjoy a little mischief.

As the Daily Mail reports, mischief did indeed occur.

So much so that the computer system at Her Majesty's Prison Isis, South London (the Queen's name adorns so many English prisons) was hacked.

The slightly peculiar miscalculation that led to this hacking -- which happened in 2011 -- has come to light because the teacher running the IT class is suing the college that employed him for unfair dismissal.

Michael Fox claims that he didn't know Webber was a hacker. The prison banned him. Other prisons were sent a note that his talents were allegedly imperfect. Kensington and Chelsea College subsequently laid him off.

A spokesman for the prison told the Mail: "At the time of this incident in 2011 the educational computer system at HMP Isis was a closed network. No access to personal information or wider access to the internet or other prison systems would have been possible."

The Mail, however, suggests that a "major panic" ensued.

Indeed, Fox told an employment tribunal on Friday: "The perceived problem was there was a tutor who had been excluded by the prison and charged with allowing a hacking expert to hack into the prison's mainframe."

Surely someone must have known Webber was a hacker before he went to the IT class. He's sometimes referred to as "a notorious cyber-criminal."

If it wasn't Fox, who might it have been? It's not as if Webber could have hacked his way to getting invited to the class, is it?

Isis specializes in prisoners under 25. It is situated next to Her Majesty's Prison, Belmarsh. This is described as a maximum security facility.

The BBC reports that Isis has been "'bedeviled' with faulty technology."

 

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