[ISN] Security chief cleared of blackmail

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Thu Nov 08 2001 - 04:12:53 PST

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    Wednesday, 7 November, 2001
    A former senior Barclay's official from Cheshire has been cleared of
    trying to blackmail the bank out of 25m.
    Graham Browne from Cranage was found not guilty at the Old Bailey
    after telling a jury he wrote blackmail letters to draw attention to
    security failings.
    The prosecution had alleged that the former head of the bank's
    encryption department tried to blackmail Barclays into paying 1.7m
    each to himself and 13 team members.
    After discharging Mr Browne, 57, Judge David Stokes said it was "not
    appropriate" to reimburse his costs.
    Judge Stokes said: "On the defendant's own admission, he acted
    stupidly, irresponsibly and foolishly."
    Outside court, Mr Browne's solicitor Jeffrey McCann said: "Mr Browne
    is tremendously relieved."
    He said Mr Browne could not comment further because of a High Court
    order preventing him from discussing the matter.
    Secret compartment
    Sallie Bennett-Jenkins, prosecuting, said he had threatened to
    disclose coded keys which would have put the security of millions of
    credit and debit cards worldwide in jeopardy.
    She said he had become "disillusioned, bitter and angry" with the bank
    before finally resigning from his job.
    Mr Browne, from Cranage, near Holmes Chapel, Knutsford, had complained
    that his suggestions on improving security were not being taken up,
    and between March and September last year he sent four letters to
    Barclays' chief executive making the blackmail claims.
    The court heard that when police searched his home they found items
    connecting him to the letters hidden in a secret compartment under his
    kitchen sink.
    In the letters, Mr Browne had demanded a team of experts named by him
    should be paid 1.7m each to devise better security measures.
    He said it was done in a jokey way in order to bring the bank's
    attention to his fears about scrapping an internal security system.
    The demands for 25 million were described by Mr Browne as "ludicrous",
    and he did not think the letters would be taken seriously.
    'Fairly unstable'
    He said: "I expected to be instantly found out and have people on my
    doorstep demanding an explanation for what I was up to and what I was
    trying to achieve."
    He added that he felt his department had been under funded.
    The refusal to accept voluntary redundancy, his step-father's death
    and the failure of his marriage meant he was "fairly unstable" by the
    time he resigned in January 2000.
    After this his local branch had mistakenly emptied his account of
    8,600, leaving him overdrawn.
    The bank had apologised, sent him a couple of bottles of wine - then
    sent him the bill.
    He thought that was fairly amusing until he got a 4 bill for the
    interest on the overdraft.
    "That is what threw me over the edge," he said.
    After the verdict a spokesperson for Barclays said: "There has never
    been any need for customers to be concerned about security.
    "This case was brought by the Crown Prosecution Service and, as
    Barclays is not a party to the proceedings, it would be inappropriate
    for us to comment on the verdict."
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