A computer hacker has been jailed for 20 years in the United States for his part in hacking credit card systems that allowed him to steal more than 130 million credit and debit card numbers.

Albert Gonzalez from Miami, Florida, was sentenced to a 20 year term after pleading guilty in September 2009 to hacking into retailer payment systems along with two Russian co-conspirators.

The hacking campaign, which targeted some of America’s biggest brands, was described by the judge who sentenced him as “the largest and most costly example of computer hacking in US history”.

In total, more than 250 US companies were targeted, including payment processor Heartland Payment Systems, food and drink store 7-Eleven and American supermarket Hannaford Brothers Co.

Gonzalez was found to have used SQL injection attacks to exploit weaknesses in payment software programmes, allowing him to access data and steal millions of customer card details.

He blamed “curiosity and addiction” for his crimes. As part of a plea bargain, he had handed over to the court expensive jewellery, watches, his car and home as well as a total of  $1m in cash that he had buried in his parents’ garden.

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