LONDON (AP) — A British student who stole sensitive information from Facebook’s internal network was sentenced to eight months in prison Friday in what the prosecutor said was the gravest case of social media hacking to be brought before the country’s courts.
Prosecutor Sandip Patel said that Glenn Mangham, 26, had hacked into the social networking giant’s computers from his bedroom in the northern England city of York and stole what Patel described as “invaluable” intellectual property.
“He acted with determination, undoubted ingenuity and it was sophisticated, it was calculating,” Patel told London’s Southwark Crown Court ahead of sentencing Friday. He added later: “This represents the most extensive and grave incident of social media hacking to be brought before the British courts.”
It was not immediately clear exactly what information Mangham stole, although police said that he didn’t manage to compromise any personal user data. Scotland Yard said in a statement that the breach had occurred “over a short period of time” in April of last year but did not divulge precisely how he managed to break into the computers.
The statement said that Facebook Inc. discovered the breach in May and alerted the FBI, who traced the source of the attack back to Britain. Scotland Yard’s e-crimes unit raided Mangham’s home on June 2.
The software development student pleaded guilty on Dec. 13. He had argued that he was merely trying to show the Palo Alto, California-based company how to improve its security, but Judge Alistair McCreath said that Mangham’s actions had “very serious potential consequences” which could have been “utterly disastrous” for Facebook.
“You and others who are tempted to act as you did really must understand how serious this is,” McCreath said.
Facebook said in a statement that it applauded police and prosecutors’ efforts in the case, adding, “we take any attempt to gain unauthorized access to our network very seriously.”
Facebook, which boasts some 845 million users worldwide, recently filed papers for its initial public offering at the beginning of this month, putting it on track to price its stock in May or June.
The company is expected to be valued at $75 billion to $100 billion.
Raphael Satter can be reached at: http://twitter.com/razhael