The Associated Press
updated 10/17/2003 9:24:52 AM ET 2003-10-17T13:24:52

A British court cleared a teen-ager Friday of hacking into the computer of the U.S. port of Houston, Texas, after the youth testified his own computer had been taken over by someone else to mount the attack.

AARON CAFFREY, 19, could have faced up to five years in prison in what would have been a landmark computer hacking case. “Hacking” is the term for using a computer to break into another computer network.

Police charged him last year after a lengthy investigation, accusing him of unleashing a digital attack that crippled the computer navigation system of one of the world’s largest ports.

Police said he intended to instruct the Texas computers to bombard an Internet chat-room user with unwelcome messages.

But a jury at Britain’s Southwark Crown court found Caffrey not guilty of the charges.

Caffrey had insisted that, although the infiltration was triggered from his computer, he was not behind it. He testified as an expert in his own defense, arguing that a hacker could have taken over his machine to mount the attack.

Outside the courtroom, the lanky teen-ager told TV cameras he now hoped to get a job as a computer security consultant or programmer.

Asked if he had advice for people interested in computer hacking, he said: “Learning it is just fine. Just don’t do anything illegal.”

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