An IT security analyst has pleaded guilty to blackmailing the company he was employed by for £300,000 worth of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin.

Ashley Liles, of Fleetwood in Letchworth, was employed as an IT security analyst by an Oxford-based company when the business suffered a cyber security incident in February 2018, which involved unauthorised access to part of the company’s computer systems. The attacker notified senior members of the company and demanded a ransom payment. 

Liles began to investigate the incident, and worked alongside colleagues and the police to try to mitigate the incident. 

However, unknown to the police, his colleagues and his employer, Liles began a separate and secondary attack against the company.


He accessed a board member’s private emails over 300 times, as well as altering the original blackmail email and changing the payment address provided by the original attacker. This was in the hope that if payment was made, it would be made to him rather than the original attacker, said the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU), who investigated the incident.

Liles also created an almost identical email address to the original attacker and began emailing his employer to pressurise them to pay the money.  

No payment was made and the unauthorised access to the private emails was noticed. It was identified that this access came from Liles home address.

Specialist police officers from SEROCU's Cyber Crime Unit arrested Liles and conducted a search of his home address.


Items seized from his address included a computer, laptop, phone and a USB stick.

Liles had wiped all data from his devices just days before his arrest, but the data was recovered, providing direct evidence of his crimes. 

Despite the evidence, Liles denied any involvement until last week when, during a hearing at Reading Crown Court on Wednesday, he pleaded guilty to blackmail and unauthorised access to a computer with intent to commit other offences.

The 28-year-old will be sentenced on July 11.

Detective Inspector Rob Bryant, from the SEROCU Cyber Crime Unit, said: "I would like to thank the company and their employees for their support and cooperation during this investigation.

"I hope this sends a clear message to anyone considering committing this type of crime. We have a team of cyber experts who will always carry out a thorough investigation to catch those responsible and ensure they are brought to justice."