Teenager pleads guilty to one of two Talk Talk cyber incidents

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A solicitor for a Co Antrim teenager has entered a guilty plea on his client’s behalf to being part of the high-profile hacking of telecom giant TalkTalk

The boy, who was 15 at the time of the cyber incident in October 2015, faces two charges and has admitted one and is denying the other.

The teenager who cannot be named because of his age - he is now 17 - was not present at Ballymena Youth Court on Wednesday.

His solicitor Garret McCann said his client was pleading guilty to the first charge he faces - that between October 15 and October 22, 2015, the boy ‘caused a computer to perform a function with intent to secure unauthorised access to any program or data held in a computer hosting the website talktalk.co.uk or to enable any such access to be secured at a time when you knew that it was unauthorised contrary to ... the Computer Misuse Act 1990’.

The lawyer entered a ‘not guilty’ plea to the second charge regarding the same dates. That charge alleges the defendant ‘did unauthorised acts in relation to a computer hosting the website talktalk.co.uk at a time when you knew that it was unauthorised, with intent to impair the operation of a computer or to prevent or hinder access to a program or data held on a computer, or being reckless as to whether the said act would have such effect contrary to ... the Computer Misuse Act 1990’.

Regarding the contested charge, Mr McCann said he believed the case could last a minimum of a week and said “it could come down to a simple issue of ‘mens rea’.”

The TalkTalk incident led to widespread media coverage and reporters from several national newspapers arrived in Co Antrim in the autumn of 2015.

In October 2015, a police spokesperson said: “A 15-year-old youth, arrested in Co Antrim yesterday as part of the investigation into the alleged theft of data from the firm TalkTalk, has been released on bail pending further enquiries.

“The investigation being conducted by the Metropolitan Police Cyber Crime Unit, Police Service of Northern Ireland and National Crime Agency is continuing.”

A number of other people have appeared in courts in other parts of the UK in connection with the overall TalkTalk cyber attack.

TalkTalk previously described how it fell victim to a “significant and sustained” attack on its website in October 2015.

The personal data of over 150,000 people was accessed in a breach - and the company was later fined £400,000 for security failings.

The firm said the fallout from the overall cyber attack cost it £42m - including security upgrades - but later said customer numbers had “bounced back” following an initial dip.