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Gates's Viagra hacker sentenced

SWANSEA, Wales -- A teenage hacker who used computer billionaire Bill Gates's credit card details to send him Viagra tablets has escaped a prison sentence.

Raphael Gray, 19, styled himself as a "saint of e-commerce", as he hacked into U.S., British and Canadian companies during a "crusade" to expose holes in Internet security.

His campaign -- which caused one firm to fold and huge financial damage -- was fought from his bedroom in a small Welsh village and sparked an FBI investigation.

Gray was ordered to carry out a three-year community probation order linked to treatment for a mental disorder when he appeared in court on Friday.

Gray, who pleaded guilty to 10 charges of computer fraud during his trial in April, said at Swansea Crown Court, South Wales, that he had been expecting to be jailed.

The court heard that Gray, praised by one victim for making the Internet more secure, had obtained access to 23,000 different credit cards by hacking into web sites.

After gaining the credit card details of Bill Gates, Gray ordered a consignment of Viagra for the Microsoft chief.

Judge Gareth Davies was told that Gray had suffered from chronic low self-esteem since childhood, which had contributed to the criminal acts he carried out on the Internet.

Expert medical evidence put forward by the defence also showed that four years before the offences Gray had fallen and banged his head.

The defence produced medical evidence arguing that his condition deteriorated to such an extent after the fall it eventually gave rise to the computer fraud he undertook.

Afterwards, Gray said he regretted not what he had done, but the way he did it. "I would do it all again but another time I would choose to ensure that I acted legally," he told the the UK's Press Association news agency.

Gray had admitted two counts of obtaining services by deception after illegally accessing credit card details.

He also admitted eight counts of unauthorised access to customer databases of companies in the U.S., Britain and Canada, as well as two charges of obtaining services by deception.

Gray also admitted two offences of obtaining computer equipment and other items worth 1,399 by deception.

All the offences were committed between February 1 and March 1 last year.

Police on both sides of the Atlantic took a month to track down the hacker to his home in Clynderwen, Carmarthen, west Wales.

He was arrested by FBI agents in a "dramatic" swoop in March last year.

Gray called himself "Curador", a Portuguese word from the Latin for curator, on his Internet sites, and, where he published details of his target companies and own beliefs.

There he wrote: "I'm for e-commerce when concluded in a secure and sensible manner but this is a rare thing.

"Most companies put some kind of page together and wait for the money to roll in. These people are the criminals."

In a message to the companies themselves, he said: "If your site is broken into, you should spend more time asking why and not who."

During his trial, In April, the court heard that Gray, who has been described as having "massive promise" and "intellectual gift", was unemployed when he committed the offences but was now working in a computer software company where his talents were finally being appreciated.

The defence said that Gray, the third of five children, had lived an unremarkable school life until the age of 14 when he fell and banged his head, suffering serious physical and mental side effects and becoming interested in computers.

The prosecution said that Gray's actions were extreme and he took a pleasure from flouting the law.

Gray had claimed he was authorised to access sites because there was no warning that access was prohibited.

• Federal Bureau of Investigation
• Dyfed-Powys Police

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