SPANISH police have arrested 'P. Power', one of the most renowned code-crackers on the internet, following a nine-month inquiry.

Armed with a simple modem connection, a decrepit computer and standard software P. Power had broken security codes and hacked his way into costly professional computer programs, the interior ministry said.

Spanish authorities have not released the identity of P. Power, known only by his Internet pseudonym, but they did say he was a 26-year-old engineer.

After meticulously unassembling programs, analysing their weak points and then stripping them of their protection, the hacker broadcast messages to the internet saying he was the unique code-cracker and was sending out the codes for free, according to the interior ministry.

The ministry added it was impossible to put a price on the damage caused to firms using the programs pirated, or to say how many internet users had downloaded the codes for free.

Unlike code 'crackers', 'hackers' break into protected programs of organisations such as NASA, banks or the FBI.