The teenager who hacked TalkTalk three years ago has been hauled before court charged with computer misuse offences after allegedly amassing a Bitcoin fortune worth more than £300,000.
Elliot Gunton, who pleaded guilty in 2016 to hacking Brit ISP TalkTalk, was said to be selling stolen personal data on cybercrime forums and trading in cryptocurrency without declaring it on his tax returns, according to constables from Norfolk Police.
He denies the charges.
Court reporters from the Eastern Daily Press, covering Gunton’s trial at Norwich Crown Court, detailed how police became aware of what the 19-year-old was allegedly up to because they were enforcing a sexual harm prevention order (SHPO) by carrying out random inspections of his computers.
Indecent images of children had been found on Gunton’s machines by police investigating the TalkTalk hack and the order was made when he was sentenced, the court was told.
Detective Constable Jamie Hollis, of Norfolk Police’s public protection unit, told the court Gunton had been visited four times between August 2016 and December 2017 to ensure he was complying with the order. A normal condition of SHPOs is that they ban the offender from using private browsing mode, deleting browser history or doing anything else that prevents unskilled police employees on home visits from trawling through an offender’s internet activities.
“Our unit does not have specialist software for home visits and we have to rely on the honesty of the offender,” said DC Hollis, as reported by the Eastern Daily Press. “It would be impossible for us to know if he has deleted any history.”
However, police decided to step up their intrusive surveillance of Gunton after learning that he intended to appeal against his SHPO, and on a later visit took his laptop away for forensic analysis. The court was told that they found CCleaner, a popular disk cleanup and file deletion utility, had been installed on it. Crown prosecutors alleged that the presence of CCleaner was a breach of Gunton’s SHPO.
“He said he was involved in stocks and shares and that is where he could make his money,” added DC Hollis. “He was adamant he would be a millionaire in three years.”
Bitcoin banditry allegations
When police raided Gunton’s home two weeks later they seized a £10,000 Rolex and an iPhone that had been locked in a safe. Detective Constable Mark Stratford, of Norfolk Police’s cyber and serious organised crime directorate, told the court they also found a “nano ledger” for Gunton’s Bitcoin account. Although it was protected by either an eight-digit PIN or a recovery phrase, Gunton allegedly did not disclose them when asked during a police interview under caution, instead making no comment throughout.
DC Stratford analysed Gunton’s laptop to uncover his Bitcoin account numbers and traced transactions through the blockchain to discover a Bitcoin deposit worth $100,000 had been made into Gunton’s wallet on 18 December 2017.
Barrister Kevin Barry, prosecuting, also told the court that Gunton had “been deeply involved in extensive criminal activity with a view to making a large profit”. He said that the teenager had earned his Bitcoin wealth by selling stolen Instagram data on an unnamed internet forum, including posts where Gunton allegedly claimed to have “fresh to market” details of “high tier” Instagram users.
Gunton, of Mounteney Close, Sprowston, Norwich, is charged with five criminal offences. Those include crimes under the Computer Misuse Act 1990, which the EDP reported “include supplying profile user names and email accounts believing that they were likely to be used to commit or to assist in the commission of an offence”.
He is also accused of money laundering over his Bitcoin usage and of breaching his SHPO. He denies all the charges.
The case continues. ®