A former teenage hacker who blackmailed American Instagrammers into handing back their stolen accounts has been jailed.
Gurvinder Bhangu would spend 24 hours a day in his bedroom and saw hacking as a ‘puzzle’ when he was just 16-years-old, Birmingham Crown Court heard.
He hacked three US victims and locked them out of their social media accounts – including one who had 1.1million followers. He then sent emails demanding money to return control to the owners – none of the victims handed anything over, but he managed to steal £4,600 from one.
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When questioned Bhangu, from Great Barr, told police officers: “It’s not even a crime, the judge will just laugh and won’t know what it’s about.”
The now 23-year-old was sentenced to 21 months in prison at Birmingham Crown Court last week as justice finally caught up with him following lengthy legal delays in the case.
He pleaded guilty to one count of blackmail and three counts of computer misuse with intent to commit fraud. The incident involving the first victim, who had over 1million followers, dated back to 2015 while the other two victims were targeted in 2016, the court heard.
Jailing Bhangu, Judge Roderick Henderson said he hoped to send a message to anyone else “tempted to do what [he] did and cause enormous damage to people.”
Mr Mitchell, prosecuting, had detailed the hacking crimes.
“He gained access to the accounts and took over control of them. He demanded payment for the return of control,” the prosecutor said.
“He was selling accounts to others and using accounts for other fraudulent activity. The victims were blackmailed by the defendant.
“He boasted of being a prolific hacker. One person suggested he might go to prison for it. He said: ‘no, who cares?.’
“During his police interview he said: ‘It’s not even a crime. The judge will just laugh and won’t know what it’s about.’”
Mr Barker, defending, said: “He was aged 22 when he entered a plea.
“He has no previous convictions and the offences occurred in early 2015 when he was 16-years-old and June 2017 when he was approximately 18 years and four months.
“Since his arrest nearly four years have passed without incident. These offences were committed when the defendant was young, depressed and socially isolated.
“He was in his bedroom 24/7.. He operated in a virtual world and had minimal contact with other human beings.
“He saw the hacking of Instagram and email accounts as a puzzle in which he could benefit.”
The judge ordered the £4,600 which Bhangu had obtained from a victim with 1.1m followers to be given back as compensation.
Judge Roderick Henderson told him there had been a long delay between every offence dating back to 2015 and three relating to early months of 2016.
But he added: “These were computer hacking offences. I have to consider the appropriate level of sentence and the question of whether I require you to serve this now or not.
“The fact you passed on details of people’s computer access details to other people is a significant aggravating feature.
“In my judgement this needs to be marked by a sentence that you have to serve.
“It needs to be understood by people that are tempted to do what you did and cause enormous damage to people.”
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