A hacker linked to thousands of cyber-attacks on firms around the world, including Skype and Google, has been jailed for two years.

Alex Bessell, 21, was also given a Serious Crime Prevention Order at Birmingham Crown Court on Thursday after admitting offences under the Computer Misuse Act at a previous hearing.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said Bessell, of Aigburth, Liverpool, was convicted of other offences, including money laundering, linked to cyber-crime.

In a statement issued after the court hearing, the CPS said Bessell was responsible for creating programmes offered for sale, allowing others across the globe to conduct so-called Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks and steal data.

The charges against him were authorised after an investigation by detectives at the Birmingham-based West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit.

Commenting on the case, Hannah Sidaway, for the CPS, said: “Bessell was responsible for the creation, use and distribution of computer malware from 2010 onwards, during which time law enforcement have seen this type of criminality grow at a phenomenal rate.

“His actions enabled others across the world to commit thousands of criminal attacks.

“Such activity can result in the compromising of personal data, extortion, loss of valuable data or work, loss of custom for businesses and a high cost to rectify the damage sustained.”

Ms Sidaway added: “Bessell’s arrest and prosecution was a result of a lengthy and complex police operation, which spanned several countries and involved the collection and analysis of detailed data to identify him.”

Alex Bessell court caseAlex Bessell leaves Birmingham Magistrates’ Court after a previous hearing (Matthew Cooper/PA)

Detective Constable Mark Bird, of the West Midlands Cybercrime Unit, described the inquiry as one of the region’s most significant prosecutions.

He said of Bessell: “He was offering an online service for anyone wanting to carry out a web attack.

“It meant anyone who had a grudge against an individual or company, or who simply wanted to conduct a cyber-attack, didn’t need the technical know-how themselves.

“They simply needed to pick a piece of malware, pay the fee, and Bessell would do the rest.”

Urging anyone using technical expertise for sinister purposes to take heed of the jail term handed to Bessell, the officer added: “In the past we have seen hackers escape with suspended prison sentences or even community orders but courts are increasingly switching onto the damage cyber crooks can wreak.

“They can destroy businesses and cause huge financial distress for people and families.”