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Linton man Alexander Marsh, 20, jailed for two and a half years after admitting hacking young women's social media accounts and blackmailing them




A 20-year-old man who hacked young women's social media accounts and accessed their private photos and videos before blackmailing them has been jailed.

Alexander Marsh admitted 13 counts of hacking at Peterborough Crown Court on Monday and was sentenced to 30 months in prison after an investigation by the Norfolk and Suffolk Cybercrime Unit - which found some of his victims were from Suffolk.

Marsh also pleaded guilty to two counts of unauthorised access to an account with intent to commit further offences, eight counts of blackmail and three counts of voyeurism.

Alexander Marsh. Picture: Suffolk Police
Alexander Marsh. Picture: Suffolk Police

He was ordered to sign the sex offenders register for seven years and will be subject to enhanced police monitoring upon release under a Criminal Behaviour Order.

Marsh, of Horseheath Road, Linton, near Haverhill, had been charged with a further 10 offences which he denied, so the court directed them to lay on file.

Police were first alerted to Marsh's crimes when they were contacted by Action Fraud in August 2019, after an 18-year-old woman reported that an unknown person had accessed her Snapchat account, changed the password and emailed her demanding money in order to release the account back to her.

Her Instagram account had also been hacked, with messages sent to a number of people in her contact list.

An investigation was launched by the Norfolk and Suffolk Cybercrime Unit and in February 2020, more victims were identified.

They reported their social media accounts being hacked, with passwords changed and intimate photos and videos stolen in attempts to blackmail them.

Messages were also sent from their account to friends and contacts which contained a link that would direct the user back to a false social media log-in page from which their credentials would then be stolen.

Officers from the cybercrime unit traced the activity to an address in Staffordshire and on February 20 last year, police arrested Marsh at his student residence.

His mobile phone was then seized and after a search of his student address, officers also seized two external hard drives, a tower computer and a second mobile phone.

Digital forensics of his computer and phones found evidence of screen recording.

These showed Marsh scrolling through various areas of his victims' social media accounts, from which he then exported and saved private images and videos to his own devices.

There were other documents detailing phishing, which is the fraudulent attempt to obtain sensitive information, or data, such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by disguising yourself as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.

Files were also discovered on the computer with the username, password, personal details, intimate photographs and videos of a number of victims and unsuspecting victims from Suffolk and adjacent counties who had had their online accounts hacked and personal content stolen.

On July 21 2020, Marsh was further arrested and, following an investigation by the Norfolk and Suffolk Cybercrime Unit, he was charged on Thursday, February 4.

The offences took place between May 2019 and February 2020.

Det Sgt Mark Stratford said: "Marsh is a manipulative individual who used a combination of social engineering, threats and sophisticated tools to facilitate his hacking activities.

"Marsh appears to have targeted the social media accounts of young women in order to access their private images and videos.

"He would then attempt to blackmail them, threatening to expose these images to their friends and family, putting his victims through an ordeal of distress and embarrassment.

"This, understandably, will have had a significant impact on all those involved in this investigation and I would like to thank the victims who bravely came forward.

"I hope that this investigation, and the sentence imposed, serves to demonstrate to all victims, and perpetrators, of this type of cybercrime how seriously these offences are taken.”

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