The activist, who is believed to be behind a file that enabled the homes of thousands of gun owners to be pinpointed online, denies illegality, writes Matt Cross for Shooting Times this week

The anti-hunting activist who put an estimated 80,000 to 90,000 gun owners at risk has said they do not believe they have committed a crime.

Their comments came as cyber police launched a massive effort to find them and to have data stolen from the Guntrader website taken offline.

The person, who uses the pseudonym Ernie Goldman, is believed to be the individual behind a file published online that allows users to zoom in on the locations of customers who used Guntrader.

‘Ernie’ told online technology paper The Register: “If a judge and jury of our peers finds us guilty of any offence, we will of course accept the punishment with good grace and apologise to anyone who can be defined as a victim. However, we don’t see what we have done is criminal.”

‘Ernie’ told The Register that the activists were driven by a dislike of the Countryside Alliance, which they claimed was maintaining a secret database of hunt saboteurs.

A cybersecurity expert who spoke anonymously to Shooting Times warned that ‘Ernie’ may have made a serious error of judgement. He said: “If they are an anti rather than someone with extensive experience of computer security, I doubt their probably quite basic approach to protecting their identity will stand up to the National Crime Agency’s [NCA] attention.”

The crucial file containing the personal details of the hack victims was temporarily taken offline when Google submitted to public and police pressure and removed it from the drive where it was hosted. It was quickly moved to another server; however, it was swiftly taken down from there too, and at the time of going to press it was no longer available on the public internet.

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Guntrader customers hit by the breach are considering legal action.

Concerned readers have continued to contact us with their questions about the hack. Among the most commonly asked questions was how someone could check if their data had been stolen and released. The advice from cybersecurity and legal experts is not to access the stolen information and instead to use the website haveibeenpwned.com to check if you have been affected.

Other questions included whether those whose details had been stolen should take additional security measures and what action police were taking. The NCA and BASC have published a guide — available at bit.ly/gunsecurity — and we understand that professional negligence lawyers at solicitors Simpson Millar are investigating the possibility of legal action.