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Hacker avoids jail for Twitter attack

François Cousteix broke into Twitter and accessed accounts including those of Barack Obama and Britney Spears

A FRENCH hacker who broke into social networking site Twitter - including the accounts of Barack Obama and Britney Spears - has avoided time in jail.

François Cousteix, known as Hacker Croll, used the "forgotten password" feature in Google Mail to access a Twitter employee's account, from which he was able to get to a range of sensitive data including other people's accounts.

He took screengrabs of various confidential sections of his targets' accounts, including the US president, and posted them on a blog as proof of his work.

The criminal court in Clermont-Ferrand handed him a five-month suspended sentence yesterday - more than the two months and €1,000 fine recommended by prosecutors.

Public prosecutor Jean-Yves Coquillat said the crime was like "breaking into a house where the front door had been left open".

Mr Cousteix smiled when the judgment was passed and said outside court that he was "relieved" and would not appeal.

He had originally faced up to two years in prison for "breaking into a computer database".

Mr Cousteix said the hack was designed to "raise awareness" of security flaws and prevent other break-ins.

His lawyer, Jean-François Canis, said there had been no intention to defraud people.

French cyber police were alerted to the crime by the FBI last July. The two forces worked on tracking the man down for several months.

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