A Yale university student faces a possible five year jail sentence after pleading guilty to defrauding America Online, the first successful US computer fraud prosecution involving an Internet online network.
Twenty-year old Nicholas Ryan admitted to developing a program - AOL4Free - which allowed him to use AOL services in late 1995 without paying the $2.95 an hour charge. Ryan, who called himself Happy Hardcore, also made the program available to other users through an AOL chatroom.
AOL became aware of the program?s existence and made modifications to prevent its use, but Ryan in turn modified AOL4Free to overcome these changes. On one single day between September and December 1995, AOL estimate that AOL4Free logged onto its network more than 2,000 times.
Ryan was arrested following a US Secret Service investigation. He will be sentenced at the end of March. He faces a potential five years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000.
Tatiana Gau, AOL?s vice president for Integrity Assurance, welcomed the conviction. "It serves as a warning to any would be hackers that AOL has zero tolerance for this kind of behaviour," she said.
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