Cyber crime operation ends with hackers put behind bars
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Five defendants have now received a total of 13 years imprisonment between them after they hacked and disclosed intimate pictures of hundreds of victims.
Left to right: Robins, James, Spencer, Field and Steinburg
Our investigation into the computer hackers - who stole private images of women before posting them online - concluded following the sentencing of Samuel Robins, 35, of London Road, Westcliff, on Monday 14 September.
He received 50 months at Basildon Crown Court for five counts of causing a computer to perform a function to secure unauthorised access to a programme or data and four counts of disclosing private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress.
Robins admitted to the offences and one count of unauthorised acts with intent to impair the operation of a computer and obtaining an article for supply to commit a computer misuse offence remain on file. He has been made subject of various restraining orders.
When sentencing Robins, His Honour Judge Andrew Hurst said: “Whether Robins carried out these offences due to some grudge he held against the young women, or simply in order to live out some kind of sexual fantasy is not clear.
“What is very clear is that he completely disregarded each of his victims rights to keep their data, including such private images of themselves, private.
“He set out to ensure that they each felt publicly embarrassed and ashamed.
“Robins engaged in sexually motivated, criminal behaviour over a lengthy period of time by a highly computer literate individual.
“By committing these offences, the defendant breached the privacy of young women in a most personal and hurtful way and caused his victims to fear that their lives in future may be blighted by personal data, and in particularly explicit photos, linked to their names being available online.”
Robins utilised his computing skills to gain unauthorised access to computers and data belonging to five young women. This activity took place between 2013 to 2016.
Having gained access to their data, he sought out private sexual images and then posted images belonging to four online. He also published their contact details including their links to a social media site.
These women were contacted by strangers who had seen their pictures and details.
Robins also sent website links to the women themselves and people known to them – including one of their managers.
It was the actions of Robins that resulted in the discovery of a network of other hackers who were accessing hundreds of people’s accounts.
Essex Police’s Cyber Crime Unit has since investigated and brought the following men to justice under this operation:
• Craig Steinburg, 32, of Lily Street, Sunderland, was jailed for 34 months for hacking into 272 iCloud accounts between December 9, 2015 and March 7, 2017. He admitted 14 counts causing a computer to perform a function to secure or enable unauthorised access to a programme or data;
• Tony Spencer 39, of Victoria Hill, Eye, received 32 months for hacking into the iCloud accounts of multiple people before capturing their private photographs and sharing them online with others. He was jailed for nine counts of voyeurism, five counts of taking an indecent photograph of a child and 12 counts of Computer Misuse Act (Hacking) Offences;
• Robert Field, 39, of Nightingale Avenue, Hathern, was jailed for 32 months after accessing 297 victim accounts in order to download and steal their private photographs for his own sexual gratification. He was sentenced for 28 counts of causing a computer to perform a function to secure unauthorised data and one count of making, supplying or obtaining articles for use in offence.
• Dominik James, 34, of Beehive Way, Stevenage, received eight months for after hacking into 30 people’s iCloud accounts before taking their private photographs and sharing them on online. He admitted to five counts of unauthorised access to computer material under Section 1 of the Computer Misuse Act 1990.
Senior Investigating Officer DCI Stuart Truss, who manages Essex Police’s Cyber Crime Unit said: “This is an excellent result for the team whom have worked on an operation for three years to target this group of hackers who were spread across the UK.
“They were targeting mainly young women, mostly aged between 18 and 25, and they captured their most intimate photographs for their own and others sexual gratification without their knowledge.
“The operation resulted in all five defendants being brought to justice after they received custodial sentences. The outcomes show just how seriously the courts treat these offences.
“Accessing other people’s on-line accounts is a serious offence and the case was made worse after the defendants shared data and images online.
“Posting private intimate pictures of the victims without their consent can cause long lasting harm and distress to victims. Once the pictures are posted they can never be truly removed.
“I have to commend my team, led by Detective Sergeant Ian Collins and the case officer DC Arran Holmes. They have both worked tirelessly to get these results and to support victims.
“I hope the hundreds of victims are able to get some form of closure from the vile actions of these individuals following their prison sentences.”
Essex Police urges people to help secure their online accounts by using methods such as two factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA).
Almost all online providers support this security feature.
Please also use a strong unique password for each online account and don’t share your passwords with anyone.