Teenage hacker jailed for masterminding attacks on Sony and Microsoft
A man has been jailed for two years for setting up a computer hacking business that caused chaos worldwide.
Adam Mudd was 16 when he created the Titanium Stresser program, which carried out more than 1.7m attacks on websites including Minecraft, Xbox Live and Microsoft and TeamSpeak, a chat tool for gamers.
He earned the equivalent of more than £386,000 in US dollars and bitcoins from selling the program to cybercriminals.
Mudd pleaded guilty and was sentenced at the Old Bailey. The judge, Michael Topolski QC, noted that Mudd came from a “perfectly respectable and caring family”. He said the effect of Mudd’s crimes had wreaked havoc “from Greenland to New Zealand, from Russia to Chile”.
Topolski said the sentence must have a “real element of deterrent” and refused to suspend the jail term. “I’m entirely satisfied that you knew full well and understood completely this was not a game for fun,” he told Mudd. “It was a serious money-making business and your software was doing exactly what you created it to do.”
Mudd showed no emotion as he was sent to a young offender institution.
During the two-day hearing, Jonathan Polnay, prosecuting, said the effect of Mudd’s hacking program was “truly global”. “Where there are computers, there are attacks – in almost every major city in the world – with hotspots in France, Paris, around the UK,” he said.
The court heard that Mudd, who lived with his parents, had previously undiagnosed Asperger syndrome and was more interested in status in the online gaming community than the money.
The court heard that the defendant, now 20, carried out 594 of the distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against 181 IP addresses between December 2013 and March 2015.
He admitted to security breaches against his college while he was studying computer science. The attacks on West Herts College crashed the network, cost about £2,000 to investigate and caused “incalculable” damage to productivity, the court heard.
On one occasion in 2014, the college hacking affected 70 other schools and colleges, including Cambridge, Essex and East Anglia universities as well as local councils.
Mudd’s explanation for one of the attacks was that he had reported being mugged to the college, but claimed no action was taken.
Polnay said there were more than 112,000 registered users of Mudd’s program who hacked about 666,000 IP addresses. Of those, nearly 53,000 were in the UK.
Among the targets was the fantasy game RuneScape, which had 25,000 attacks. Its owner company spent £6m trying to defend itself against DDoS attacks, with a revenue loss of £184,000.
The court heard that Mudd created Titanium Stresser in September 2013 using a fake name and address in Manchester. He offered a variety of payment plans to his customers, including discounts for bulk purchases of up to $309.99 for 30,000 seconds over five years as well as a refer-a-friend scheme.
Polnay said: “This is a young man who lived at home. This is not a lavish lifestyle case. The motivation around this we tend to agree is about status. The money-making is by the by.”
When he was arrested in March 2015, Mudd was in his bedroom on his computer, which he refused to unlock before his father intervened.
Mudd, from Kings Langley in Hertfordshire, pleaded guilty to one count of committing unauthorised acts with intent to impair the operation of computers; one count of making, supplying or offering to supply an article for use in an offence contrary to the Computer Misuse Act; and one count of concealing criminal property.
Ben Cooper, defending, appealed for his client to be given a suspended sentence. He said Mudd had been sucked into the cyber world of online gaming and was “lost in an alternate reality” after withdrawing from school because of bullying.
Mudd, who was expelled from college and now works as a kitchen porter, had been offline for two years, which was a form of punishment for any computer-obsessed teenager, Cooper said.
The “bright and high-functioning” defendant understood what he did was wrong but at the time he lacked empathy due to his medical condition, the court heard.
Cooper said: “This was an unhappy period for Mr Mudd, during which he suffered greatly. This is someone seeking friendship and status within the gaming community.”
The judge said: “I have a duty to the public who are worried about this, threatened by this, damaged by this all the time … It’s terrifying.”
The sentencing comes on the day that alleged hacker Lauri Love was given the go-ahead to challenge his extradition to the US.
US authorities have been fighting for Love, who has Asperger syndrome, to face trial on hacking charges, which his lawyers say could mean a sentence of up to 99 years in prison if he is found guilty.
The 32-year-old, who lives with his parents near Newmarket in Suffolk, is alleged to have stolen huge amounts of data from US agencies, including the Federal Reserve, the US army, the Department of Defence, Nasa and the FBI in 2012 and 2013.
His solicitors, KaimTodner, announced in a statement on Tuesday that they had obtained permission for Love to appeal against extradition.
No date has yet been set for the challenge, which will be heard at the high court in London.