A COMPUTER hacker who described himself as one of North Wales’ leading entrepreneurs has been jailed today after he launched a cyber-attack on a company which ended his contract.

Gavin Paul Prince admitted five offences under the Computer Misuse Act and was jailed for ten months.

Judge Rhys Rowlands, sitting at Mold Crown Court, said the offences were serious in an age when every aspect of people’s lives, and the effective running of commercial organisations, depended on the integrity of computer systems.

He was a professional who used his skills to attack the systems of a client company when he lost his job.

It was a breach of trust with the intention of causing harm by way of revenge – which caused harm and inconvenience.

Prince changed email passwords when he had unauthorised access to company data.

The 37-year-old, of Llys Ywen, Llandudno Junction, in April of last year, attacked the systems of Colwyn Bay-based LetsXL, which provided support services to the lettings industry, said prosecuting barrister Sion ap Mihangel.

Prince previously worked there as data processor, returned in 2011, and provided IT support as a contractor under the name “Lime Sauce”

For tax purposes in 2014, he became staff on £27,000 a year then reverted to contracting under the name Verilet.

He described himself as a leading North Wales Entrepreneur who was assisting generations with accessibility over ownership.

That suggested he was at least beginning to contemplate providing letting industry support services himself beyond mere IT Support, said Mr ap Mihangel.

LetsXL director Nick Lunn, became concerned about the service he provided.

Prince told him “I could take down your system whenever I want”.

He also said he could “wipe your database”, and “I could take your customer database if I wanted to”.

There was evidence that the defendant stopped the IT’s systems from working correctly.

He told an employee “watch this”, got his phone out and in minutes received a call from the company to say the systems had gone down.

Prince then used his phone and appeared to put the systems back up.

He said the company needed him more than he needed them, it was alleged.

It was alleged he said he wanted to take control of the company.

Following press publicity about his case a witness came forward who said he had told her he was taking over a business and the owner was being awkward. He warned if he did not co-operate he could “take them down any time I want”.

Mr Lunn became so concerned he terminated his contract last April and it was then Prince then launched an attack on LetsXL’s systems over a four day period.

He changing the passwords to mailboxes causing a system failure where emails were not forwarded for processing.

The changes were subtle and hard to detect.

It was found he accessed mailboxes of five company employees.

In one case emails had been set to delete.

The prosecutor said the defendant had done it to steal data from the company, disrupt it’s activities, or both.

It had been caused “a great deal of disruption”

After he left the company’s IT problems virtually ceased.

Arrested, he denied being responsible and tried to blame outdated equipment, and bad staff practices.

Analysis of his computer and phone found significant evidence, including Google searches for “spam an email box”, “how to get apple mail to check every second” and “crash a Silverlight website”.

Matthew Curtis, defending, said Prince had established his own business which employed four people and was hoping to take on a fifth.

He had built up a modest £60,000 turnover and feared it would have to close immediately if he lost his liberty.

References spoke of the defendant’s kindness and loyalty.

He said the offences occurred at a time of personal difficulties and sadness in his life. He was remorseful and ashamed at what he had done.

Prince had learnt a hard lesson and was concerned for the effect on his employees if the company had to close.

But Judge Rowlands said that the defendant’s actions had the potential to cause the victim company “real harm” in a competitive market.

If customer emails were ignored then they would go elsewhere.

He had used his position of trust over a four day period to cause disruption in an act of revenge or spite.

The defendant attacked the company systems by way of retaliation or to show how indispensable he believed he was so that they would have to take him back.

It was clear his actions had a profound effect upon the company and its director and additional IT assistance had to be brought in at a cost of £7,000.

He had no previous convictions and the defendant had said his own company was at risk if he lost his liberty.

Judge Rowlands said that he did not dismiss the effect of the sentence on others.

But the nature of what Prince had done demonstrated “that you cannot be trusted” to act in the best interests of his clients.

That would suggest that his company was very much at risk in any event when the facts of the case became known to the wider business community.

“You alone are responsible for that,” the judge said.