Prosecutors described Mangham’s security breach in April and May of 2011 as “the most extensive and grave incident of social media hacking to be brought before the British courts.”
The court refused to buy his defense that he was an “ethical hacker” and jailed him for eight months.
Mangham infiltrated the social networking site from his Yorkshire bedroom, hacking into the account of a Facebook employee who was away on vacation. The 26-year-old stole what the prosecution said was “invaluable” intellectual property from the company.
Mangham told the court that in the past he’d informed Yahoo about vulnerabilities he’d found in its system and helped them to improve the company’s security, and that he was intending to assist Facebook in the same way.
When Facebook realized its system had been hacked, it contacted the FBI who launched an investigation into the security breach. As a result, Langham was arrested in June of last year.
“He acted with determination and undoubted ingenuity and it was sophisticated, it was calculating,” prosecutor Sandip Patel told a London court.
The court heard from defender Tony Ventham that Mangham, a software development student, was of good character and had never been in trouble before. Ventham also said that Mangham showed signs of Asperger’s syndrome and could have been trying to impress his father, whose job is in the computer industry.
Judge McCreath said to Mangham that he believed he had not passed on the information he had gathered from Facebook or made any money out of his actions.
However, he addd, “But this was not just a bit of harmless experimentation. You accessed the very heart of the system of an international business of massive size, so this was not just fiddling about in the business records of some tiny business of no great importance.”
He said Mangham had been persistent and sophisticated in his actions and had the risk of “putting in danger the reputation of an innocent employee of Facebook.” The judge described Mangham’s claim that he was going to inform the social networking site of its security flaws as “retrospective justification.”
Commenting on the court case in a statement, Facebook said it applauded police and prosecutors’ efforts. “We take any attempt to gain unauthorized access to our network very seriously.”
The popular social networking site claims to have more than 800 million users worldwide and recently filed IPO papers. When the company goes public later this year it could be valued at as much as $100 billion.