A COMPUTER expert who hacked into his ex-employees IT system as an act of revenge and then bragged about it on Whatsapp has avoided jail.

Lewis Howe cost the Flying Trade Group more than £180,000 and left them unable to trade for several days after the cyber attack.

The 27-year-old had worked for the multi-national firm, based in Parkeston, for little over a year before being dismissed.

Just weeks later he accessed their computer system and deleted user accounts, printer keys and computers from the network.

He then tried to cover his tracks by deleting the server history.

Police caught up with Howe after a password used in the attack was linked to him.

He initially denied doing anything illegal, until presented with Whatsapp messages sent from his phone where he bragged about what he had done.

In a group called ‘The Daddys’ he said lots of people would be unable to log on and that he had messed up the server.

Howe, of Adby Avenue, Dovercourt, admitted a charge of unauthorised acts with the intent to impair operation of or hinder access to a computer.

Chelmsford Crown Court heard Howe had been struggling in his personal life at the time in November 2018 and was abusing alcohol and cocaine.

Daniel O’Malley, mitigating said: “He bitterly regrets what he has done.

“He was angry at being dismissed after working hard and for long hours and he wanted revenge.”

Judge Timothy Walker said he was only sparing Howe jail because his child and step-children rely on him, as do workers at his new job.

“This was serious breach of trust requiring sophisticated and detailed IT knowledge,” he said.

“It was deliberate and malicious.

“The messages demonstrate your attitude at the time - you were very pleased to have carried out the act of revenge.”

Howe was given a ten month jail sentence suspended for two years and must complete 240 hours of unpaid work and 30 rehabilitation days.

Howe was also given a six month curfew meaning he cannot leave his house between 7pm and 7am.

He must pay £360 costs.