Cheshire: IT security worker jailed for stealing data

A computer security worker who stole data and hacked into company websites across the UK has been jailed.

Craig Fox, 36, of Scholes Drive, Chadderton, appeared at Chester Crown Court on Friday August 12, after pleading guilty to two counts of blackmail, six counts of the Computer Misuse Act and three counts of fraud by misrepresentation.

He was sentenced to five years in prison and given a 10-year criminal behavior order (CBO).

Fox must also pay a total of £190 in legal costs.

The court heard how Fox targeted businesses related to housewares and home decor across the country – the first being on May 2, 2021 where Fox posted a religious video on the website and blocked customers from access all products on the site.

Crucial website files were also deleted, causing significant financial damage to the company and emotional stress to the owners.

The second attack took place the next day on another similar company – but this time he sent emails from the work email account making false claims about the company.

The website was also defaced – indicating that Fox had access to all accounts and that if requests were not met it would release sensitive data to the public.
Requests for communications data were made which led to an address at Marsland Road, Sale, Manchester.

Officers from Cheshire Police’s Cybercrime Team carried out a warrant at the address, but after initial inquiries into the property there was no evidence of illegal activity.

However, after speaking to the occupier, they revealed that their neighbor had previously requested to use their WiFi.

Further examination of the WiFi router revealed that a device called “CraigLaptop” had previously been connected to it.

Officers knocked on the property and were granted access by a Fox roommate.

Although Fox, who worked in computer security, was not home at the time, police obtained a warrant to search his room.

During the search, a sheet of paper with the WiFi code of the neighboring house as well as a charger for a Dell laptop.

However, no cellphones or laptops were found at the address, so detectives made an appointment to speak to Fox. He said he loaned a phone which he has since returned and does not own a laptop.

He was later arrested and further investigations revealed his laptop was in an office in Manchester which was seized, examined and contained key evidence. Fox was later released under investigation.

During the ensuing investigation, it was established that Fox had hacked into several other companies, claiming he had “exposed weaknesses” in their computer security.

He even asked for donations for the “work” he had done, providing bank details which later revealed financial checks had been traced to his bank account.

Fox was later summoned to court for the offenses allegedly committed.

Detective Sergeant Dave MacFarlane, who led the investigation, said: “Fox thought he could hide his exploits by pretending not to own a laptop or even a personal phone, but was egregious enough to use his own name in correspondence with the companies concerned.

“It was a complex case and I would like to thank the victims and witnesses without whom this result would not have been possible. I also want to thank the courts for handing down the sentence they imposed on Fox.

“I hope this case has a chilling effect and shows how relentlessly we pursue criminals and will not stop until justice is served.”

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