IT expert 'misuses talent' to net 1.6m GBP

An IT expert threatened to unleash an army of zombie computers to take down Nominet, the UK organisation that controls Britain's .uk emails and websites, as just one of a multitude of online attacks, a court has heard.

23-year-old Peter Francis-Macrae is accused of netting £1.6million from a series of computer-enabled scams that he authored alone over a five-year period, The Times reports.

His spree ended in November last year, before which he illegally copied and used records from Nominet's WHOIS database to send out fake domain name renewal invoices under the name of 'Domain Registry Services.'

Prior to threatening to take down Nominet's entire operation, Francis-Macrae is said to have made his money via spam emails that promised advance registration of '.eu' domain names.

Netting £200,000 a fortnight from such a fictitious service, Peterborough Crown Court heard Francis-Macrae's other scam of sending fake domain name renewal forms to people whose accounts were due to expire, earned him a further £600,000.

The proceeds of his alleged crimes financed a luxury lifestyle including £12,000 of Yves Saint Laurent clothing and £16,000 in helicopter lessons.

Described by the prosecution as a computer genius who misused his talent, the court was told how investigations into Francis Macrae and his company, Ultra Technologies Ltd, provoked a stream of death threats against probing authorities.

Rupert Mayo, for the prosecution, said: "He resorted to using violent verbal abuse and deadly threats to quite innocent people when challenged about his fraudulent activity."

These culminated when the four-year cyber crook threatened to plant a bomb at Cambridge police station, in addition to sending out thousands of spam emails with the name and telephone number of its Chief Constable.

The bombardment of unsolicited mail caused thousands of callers to crash the police switchboard, in what is understood to be a personal vendetta against the force for none other than taking steps to investigate him.

Francis-Macrae, who once apparently threatened a trading standards officer by declaring, 'My name is Peter Francis Macrae – I am your worst nightmare,' also took a personal dislike to the guardian of UK websites, after it posted an online advisory warning consumers of his bogus business.

The response came in November 2004, when Nominet was told the claims must be taken offline within two hours, or the organisation would be bombarded by 200,000 zombie computers, potentially resulting in the failure of Britain's internet system.

Francis-Macrae's threat failed. He was promptly arrested, told to provide a full list of accounts he obtained from the Nominet database and ordered to pay the registry £81,000 in costs.

His trial continues.

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