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U.K. teen acquitted with Trojan defense

A 19-year-old accused of launching a distributed denial-of-service attack on the Port of Houston's IT systems has been found not guilty.

A U.K. teen accused of launching a distributed denial-of-service attack on the Port of Houston's IT systems has been found not guilty of unauthorized modification of computer material.

The jury's ruling came Friday in the Southwark Crown Court in London. Even though both the defense and prosecution acknowledged that the attack had originated from Caffrey's computer, the defendant claimed his computer had been taken over by a hacker using a Trojan horse program.

Aaron Caffrey, 19, was accused of being part of an elite hacking group and of having the distributed denial-of-service script and the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses of more than 11,000 vulnerable servers on his computer.

The attack on Sept. 20, 2001, which was traced to a computer at Caffrey's home by U.S. police, was allegedly aimed at taking a South African chatroom user called "Bokkie" offline after she had made comments on Internet Relay Chat that attacked the United States. Caffrey allegedly took offense at the comments because his girlfriend at the time, Jessica, was American.

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While giving evidence last week, however, Caffrey asserted that although Jessica was his girlfriend at the time and he had known her for about a year, the relationship had been carried out solely over the Internet. The two had never met in person.

Caffrey denied any knowledge of the attack and claimed that evidence of the attack, in the form of log files, was planted. This theory was blasted by Neil Barrett, an expert witness at the trial who told the court that, after examining the physical location of data blocks on Caffrey's computer, there was no evidence that the log files had been altered at a later date.

The teen had faced up to three years in prison.

Munir Kotadia of ZDNet UK reported from London.