July 8, 2015

In a win for Internet trolls and teenage cybercriminals everywhere, a Finnish court has decided not to incarcerate a 17-year-old found guilty of more than 50,000 cybercrimes, including data breaches, payment fraud, operating a huge botnet and calling in bomb threats, among other violations.

Julius "Ryan" Kivimaki.

Julius “Ryan” Kivimaki.

As the Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat reports, Julius Kivimäki — a.k.a. “Ryan” and “Zeekill” — was given a two-year suspended sentence and ordered to forfeit EUR 6,558.

Kivimaki vaulted into the media spotlight late last year when he claimed affiliation with the Lizard Squad, a group of young hooligans who knocked offline the gaming networks of Microsoft and Sony for most of Christmas Day.

According to the BBC, evidence presented at Kivimaki’s trial showed that he compromised more than 50,000 computer servers by exploiting vulnerabilities in Adobe’s Cold Fusion web application software. Prosecutors also said Kivimaki used stolen credit cards to buy luxury goods and shop vouchers, and participated in a money laundering scheme that he used to fund a trip to Mexico.

Kivimaki allegedly also was involved in calling in multiple fake bomb threats and “swatting” incident — reporting fake hostage situations at an address to prompt a heavily armed police response to that location. DailyDot quotes Blair Strater, a victim of Kivimaki’s swatting and harassment, who expressed disgust at the Finnish ruling.

Speaking with KrebsOnSecurity, Strater called Kivimaki “a dangerous sociopath” who belongs behind bars.

Although it did not factor into his trial, sources close to the Lizard Squad investigation say Kivimaki also was responsible for making an August 2014 bomb threat against former Sony Online Entertainment President John Smedley that grounded an American Airlines plane. That incident was widely reported to have started with a tweet from the Lizard Squad, but Smedley and others say it started with a call from Kivimaki.

In a phone interview, Smedley said he was disappointed that the judicial system in Finland didn’t do more.

“I personally got to listen to a recording of him calling in to American Airlines, and I know it was him because I talked to him myself,” Smedley said. “He’s done all kinds of bad stuff to me, including putting all of my information out on the Internet. He even attempted to use my credit numerous times. The harassment literally just did not stop.”

In an online interview with KrebsOnSecurity, Kivimaki denied involvement with the American Airlines incident, and said he was not surprised by the leniency shown by the court in his trial.

“During the trial it became apparent that nobody suffered significant (if any) damages because of the alleged hacks,” he said.

The danger in a decision such as this is that it emboldens young malicious hackers by reinforcing the already popular notion that there are no consequences for cybercrimes committed by individuals under the age of 18.

Case in point: Kivimaki is now crowing about the sentence; He’s changed the description on his Twitter profile to “Untouchable hacker god.” The Twitter account for the Lizard Squad tweeted the news of Kivimaki’s non-sentencing triumphantly: “All the people that said we would rot in prison don’t want to comprehend what we’ve been saying since the beginning, we have free passes.”

It is clear that the Finnish legal system, like that of the United States, simply does not know what to do with minors who are guilty of severe cybercrimes.  The FBI has for several years now been investigating several of Kivimaki’s contemporaries, young men under the age of 18 who are responsible for a similarly long list of cybercrimes — including credit card fraud, massively compromising a long list of Web sites and organizations running Cold Fusion software, as well as swatting my home in March 2013. Sadly, to this day those individuals also remain free and relatively untouched by the federal system.

Lance James, former head of cyber intelligence for Deloitte and a security researcher who’s followed the case closely, said he was disappointed at the court’s decision given the gravity and extensiveness of the crimes.

“We’re talking about the Internet equivalent of violent crimes and assault,” James said. “This is serious stuff.”

Kivimaki said he doesn’t agree with the characterization of swatting as a violent crime.

“I don’t see how a reasonable person could possibly compare cybercrime with violent crimes,” he said. “There’s a pretty clear distinction here. As far as I’m aware nobody has ever died in such an incident. Nor have I heard of anyone suffering bodily injury.”

As serious as Kivimaki’s crimes may be, kids like him need to be monitored, mentored, and molded — not jailed, says James.

“Studying his past, he’s extremely smart, but he’s troubled, and definitely needs a better direction,” James said. “A lot of these kids have trouble in the home, such as sibling or parental abuse and abandonment. These teenagers, they aren’t evil, they are troubled. There needs to be a diversion program — the same way they treat at-risk teenagers and divert them away from gang activity — that is designed to help them get on a better path.”

But Kivimaki may not get that chance. According to Smedley, there are more than a dozen criminal cases pending against the Finnish youth.

“Now that he’s a convicted felon, he can’t claim first time status anymore,” Smedley said. “There’s no question he’s going to get his.”

Update, 3:30 p.m. ET: Added comments from Smedley.

146 thoughts on “Finnish Decision is Win for Internet Trolls

  1. Rusty

    A number of years ago, I had a young hacker type punk kid threaten me that he would go online and wreck my credit rating. I laughed at him, then told him in no uncertain terms that if he “wrecked my credit” that I would physically wreck *him*! I also told him that I would be able to repair my credit rating, but that there weren’t enough doctors in the world who would be able to repair him. I then finished with, “So, you do what you want to do, and then I’ll do what I’ll have to do.”

    Needless to say, he never followed up on his threat.

    These modern hacker-punks need to be dealt with the same way. Vigilante justice, if that’s what it takes. When somebody SWATs you, they are trying to kill you, hence it is only fair to turn the tables on them.

    I once had an idea to write a novel about a disgruntled computer person who got fed up with all of the hackers, virus writers, etc, and who then became a vigilante who tracked down the bad guys and then removed them from society (permanently).

    I also have put forth the idea that when these perps are caught, let some of their victims decide the perp’s fate (you could even make it a reality show on TV!). Me, being an old hockey player, would tie the perp spread-eagle fashion to a hockey net, then I would get a bunch of pucks and start shooting the pucks at the perp. Oh, did I mention that the perp wouldn’t be wearing any protective equipment? 🙂


    1. Mike

      Aside from immature idiots that get on the net thinking they have skills when not….

      Aside from obvious issues that Krebs has with the Lizard Square (though likely justified)….

      It is equally obvious that very few people honestly understand what “hacking” is or the need for it. It is astounding that most people get so upset at rouge individuals roaming the web and at the same time give no interest at all to the hackers at major corporations like Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, etc. It is interesting to see how so many people are so bothered by the activities of those labeled as “hackers” while never learning anything at all about how to protect themselves. People seem to think all they have to do is install some AV program and set their system for “automatic updates”.

      The Lizard Squad needs to be dealt with and NOT with a light touch. But, that does NOT mean that there is not a problem.

      The way Finnish deals with their own internal affairs is upto them.

      What I’m looking for here is the ability to go beyond all the craziness and see the bigger picture. There is too much hypocracy at this level. Get upset if you must, but people that refuse to keep their footlockers locked while stairing into blank space eating jelly donuts have no room to complain.

      1. Soy Tenley

        “The way Finnish deals with their own internal affairs is upto them.”

        When the criminal activity crosses the Finnish border into other countries, it is no longer “internal affairs”

        There should be a countdown of when this “kid” turns 18, then he can’t escape prosecution.

        1. SeymourB

          Quite simply, there already is a countdown in place. Once law enforcement is aware of them they will simply keep track of them, their age, and their activities, and once they cross the threshold to adulthood the clock starts ticking. If they don’t immediately stop their actions they are, quite simply, months away from a criminal suit. Everything they do from 18 on becomes another bullet point in the suit. They know you exist. They know what you’re doing. And now you’re touchable.

      2. Atilla the Hun

        Bigger Picture … OK, let’s see. You claim that Microsoft, Apple, and others are hacking my computer. Maybe true, probably not, but apparently you are saying this justifies someone else hacking … and worse than hacking, swatting. Are you serious? Someone in your city will be murdered today (statistically.) So does that mean no one should give a damn if you are murdered today? I can’t solve every problem in the world, but if we can’t solve ANY problem until we can solve them all at once, then nothing will ever get solved.

        And while I might agree with you about, “… people that refuse to keep their footlockers locked while stairing into blank space eating jelly donuts …”, the fact that my front door isn’t locked IS NOT an invitation to come in and help yourself. Besides, I have a gun, and you just might not like what you are served with.

        RESPECT is the issue here. I’m not saying there is enough in the world, but there won’t be more when you say it’s OK to not respect someone who doesn’t have his footlocker locked.

        So I have to agree with others who basically said, “When you leave your country and enter mine, even if only electronically, you invite me to return the favor. If you don’t want me returning the favor, STAY IN YOUR COUNTRY and I’ll leave you alone.”

        1. Mike

          I never said it was (or is) “ok”.

          I have to acknowledge that there are bad people in this world. There are evil people in this world.

          There are reasons why locks were invented in the first place. Respect is certainly a big part of this. I understand what your saying and I’m not disagreeing with you. What I am most assuredly saying is that this is NOT the same world that it used to be, even just 20-25 years ago. Life is not like it was when I was growin up. Things have changed. People need to wake up and smell the coffee. An “update” is NOT gowing to fix anything.

          You can deny what Microsoft does all you want. They have a direct link into every Windows based computer in the world. What they have, is intrinsically the very thing that every hacker in the world would kill to achieve. What’s even more than that is that Microsoft (and others) have convinced the world (people like you) that you (as the user) MUST do as your told to do or else. Never forget that they DO have the power to take your computer from you….virtually. Apple is the same way, if not worse. This is proven to people all the time.

          1. Atilla the Hun

            Mike, I’m going to assume you aren’t a TROLL like Dunton. But hijacking a discussion thread to change it to your cause isn’t right either.

            How did you attempt hijack? Because your thesis is that the issues being discussed in this thread aren’t as bad as what Microsoft is doing. It’s hijacking, because you aren’t really interested in discussing whether the swatting or hacking issue is bad in reference to Juli baby.

            Mike says, “I have to acknowledge that there are bad people in this world. There are evil people in this world. … People need to wake up and smell the coffee. … You can deny what Microsoft does all you want.”

            There you have it. You “acknowledge” there are bad people, but then you return to your topic, “Microsoft is worse.”

            You have a chance to prove you aren’t a troll. Here’s how.

            1) Repeat after me, “No matter how much I hate Microsoft, there can be NO defense of attempted murder by proxy. Juli baby should be treated like a baby and spanked until his brains move up to his head where they can be used instead of sat on.”
            2) Go start your own thread (or as many as you choose) where you set the subject and you can castigate Microsoft and Apple to your heart’s content.

            I might even join you there. I hate Micro$loth, and while I don’t think Apple is in the same league, I think Google and Facebook are as bad as Micro$loth. But none of them are as bad as an attempted murderer who got off and is bragging about it.

            1. Mike

              If my responses are being perceived as hijacking, then I am sorry. That was never my intension.

              I cannot defend what the Lizard Squad does. But, I also cannot defend a legitimate discussion regarding that (or any other) hacker group had by people that have such little understanding of computers.

              [So I have to agree with others who basically said, “When you leave your country and enter mine, even if only electronically, you invite me to return the favor. If you don’t want me returning the favor, STAY IN YOUR COUNTRY and I’ll leave you alone.”]

              This sentiment is understandable and is shared by many….but it also fails with regard to the cloud and the very nature of how the internet works and how life on the web has changed over the last decade. The internet does not recognize national borders in this way. Too many people all over the planet are missing this point.

      3. Olinguito

        It is indeed astounding “that most people get so upset at rouge individuals roaming the web”.

        Red individuals shouldn’t be doing that.

    2. Jim

      Haha, okay buddy. So, you threatened someone with physical violence? You are the real criminal in this case. AND a minor at that. If the kid was smart he would have reported it, and you’d be in a jail cell. Not too smart, are you?

  2. bob


    Ha, ha, yeah, physical violence! Demonstrably and provably solves all problems!

    Just like putting people in gaol!

  3. Renee Pierre

    History repeats itself in predictable ways. We stand in the same position that we once stood in the old west. Many people had guns, and without a centralized authority / justice system, crime ran rampant throughout the western territories. As a criminal, once you made the decision to risk the crime, you then worked out where to go to do it with the lowest risk.

    In this way, life on the frontier was a lot cheaper, and a lot of people died by the gun than would be understood in these days.

    There were two answers to the lack of a judicial oversight – vigilantism as you describe, or a concerted investment into the laws and consequences of international communications such as this.

    Unlike the “wild west” which lasted a fairly short time, after 20 years pursuing the second – Internet law, it is plain that the first is the only available option, and while it seems reckless to suggest it – I would have to support tracking down the “perps” and inflicting gross bodily injury.

    This is not the right thing to do in a civilized society, and I shudder at the consequences of “injustice” in this model, but as the only option, it is also the best way to establish a deterrent that is currently lacking today.

    1. Atilla the Hun

      I’m both shocked and amused that you can cram so much naiveté and insight into a single messages. Frontier societies are like that, and people band together and agree to a code that allows them to live together. That forms communities and governments. And the Wild West period popularized by movies was never as wild and violent as the movies showed, or the country would have been depopulated long ago.

      Still the period which began at the end of the Civil War was marked by bounty hunters, and when you have no system to track down an punish people who refused to live in agreement with their neighbors, that is what you should expect. You shudder to think about it, and yet if there isn’t a system that punishes people who refuse to respect the rights of their neighbors, then bounty hunters are the obvious response.

      Just how many millions of dollars/euros/yuan/rubles/whatever are stolen every year by internet criminals? For a fraction of that, bounty hunters could and would track them down. And perhaps that’s the point (as always) with crime and punishment. If the punishment is sufficient, it does have a deterrent effect, and even when deterrence doesn’t work, at least that person criminal won’t be back soon, if ever.

  4. Chris Pugson

    This naive twerp has been so emboldened that he will likely do something that will get him banged up for many years. He should be very afraid. He will surely be under surveillance, evidence will be being gathered and he WILL be held to account for future outrages which he cannot restrain himself from perpetrating.

  5. Rusty

    Let me put it this way. As a young kid, I was a scrawny shrimp. As such, I was physically bullied in school. That is, until I learned to physically fight back. After that, I never had to fight the same bully again, as I would make them pay for their transgressions against me.

    Also, as an adult, besides playing hockey, I used to referee it. There is the “official” justice system where the ref metes out penalties for various infractions, but there is also a vigilante system (that works quite well) where if someone on a team takes a cheap shot at someone on the other team and “gets away” with it without having a ref call a penalty, well, the other team will find a way to “pay back” the initial transgressor. Sometimes just the implicit threat of the “payback” will keep the initial transgressor from transgressing!

    It is the same in life. Some folks will continue to try to take advantage of others, as long as they know there will be no negative consequences to themselves. However, if they know there will be swift, sure, and effective payback, then they won’t be so sure to start anything.

    And for some folks to think that they can settle everything without “violence” is to not live in the real world. That’s like when folks delude themselves into thinking they are safe because they are in a “gun free zone” when in actuality they are at great risk because they won’t be able to effectively fight back should trouble arise.

    It all boils down to the excellent point I read many years ago. If someone wants to kill you (for example), you only have three courses of action available to you. 1) You can let them kill you. Of course, this is not a good alternative for most of us. 2) You can try to talk them out of wanting to kill you. This usually does not work–just try to talk ISIS into not wanting to kill you, for example. Or, 3) You can kill them first. Really, there are no other options.

    Now, hopefully, nobody reading this forum will think I’m just going around looking for trouble. I’m not. However, I am always ready to defend myself should someone try to harm me. Everyone should be that way!


    1. chaz

      We haven’t nearly evolved enough to expect many of the the world’s inhabitants to understand consequences, channel anger, or understand and forgive. It’s extremely unfortunate how life’s lessons must be learned. At this point in time, your thoughts are essential and careful consideration for anyone turning the other cheek.

    2. Jim

      Rusty, get real. You clearly have an inferiority complex. You get off on this supposed power you have.

  6. infra-aDmin

    Dear Braien !! as you USA Mason from some Universitete !!

    Please write us something about DEA and their works… and about drugs selling via WWW in C.I.S. region BLIAD alsoo…

    I understand that you in summer holdey now. But please try as you CAN !!!!!!

    After 30-90 days period for example ((

  7. Todd

    Kivimaki is probably the most brazen Internet criminal there’s ever been. He never once cared if people knew his full name and every single thing he’s ever done, because he knew police would do nothing to him as long as he’s a minor. His bluff has completely paid off.

    He’ll probably stop doing most of his criminal activities when he turns 18, but this is still pretty absurd. He needed at least a year or 2 of prison. I’ve seen him in action and talked to him a few times over the past 4 years, and while he’s intelligent, he has no conscience whatsoever.

    1. mjvv

      Sorry to break your bubble but most of the prison sentences here in Finland are given as suspended sentences, even for adults. You only get incarcerated if you murder someone, don’t pay your taxes or deal drugs. You might (about 50% chance) get incarcerated if you rape someone.

      You can assault and rob people at will and commit fraud and they won’t put you in prison. You just get one suspended sentence after another. For the suspended sentence to actualize, you would have to be convicted of a crime that certainly warrants incarceration (i.e. murder, tax fraud, drugs).

      1. markD

        Sounds like a great place for psychopaths to emigrate to.

        Come to think of it, it might be a great place for anyone to emigrate to. What is Finland’s immigration policy, I might want to look into it myself.

  8. Starfall

    I was once like him not too long ago. It disgusts me to look at him and see a reflection of my 14-year-old self.

    1. Jonn

      He claims you set him up in an FBI sting when you and he were in a hotel room for, I think, DEFCON. Is that true? Or is there more to the story?

    2. Lawl

      Your still 14 and doing skid stuff, what are you talking about. HF for life bruh.

      1. KMS

        ofcourse he is, little transgender ryan king will always be the hf skid

  9. Thomas

    With all due respect I don’t think Brian understands the Finnish society enough to judge this boy like this. I admit that his crimes are serious. But in my country we understand when a child is a child and we just don’t want to put them behind bars that easily. His childish behavior after the sentence underscores this.

    Even a suspended sentence will leave a permanent mark in his life. No question about that. And he already served jail time.

    1. Sunman42

      In the U.S., as in some other countries, minors can be tried as adults if the crime is serious enough, and a judge can be convinced that the alleged perpetrator understood what he or she was doing. This young man appears to be a sociopath (disclaimer: I don’t even play a psychologist on TV), and if he is determined to be so, I would gave hoped that he could be detained in a youth facility or psychiatric hospital until it could be determined whether he was growing out of his lack of regard for the rights of others,

    2. James

      …But…50,000 counts? and you don’t think even at least a few months in a jail cell and a court order not to operate a computer wouldn’t do him even a little good?

  10. chaz

    OK , so the Fins overlooked jail time for Julius the hacker probably because his lawyer convinced the court that he courageously showed the world just how outdated and vulnerable current safeguards can be and are no obstacle for a determined 17 year old dissatisfied with, among other things, his allowance from mom and pop. With an overly sympathetic judicial system, regular jail time would merely become bragging rights and another form of after school detention. There should be other choices like requiring the accused to pick one of three mandatory alternatives to the slammer. A possibility that comes to mind is doing the Naked and Afraid ordeal “alone” for a longer stretch instead of 21 days. Another consideration is a full season as Mike’s Rowe’s trainee on Dirty Jobs. Number three could be a year of holiday weekends in Helsinki’s drunk-tank, (the most notorious in all of Europe). Tough love ? Or, an indelible humbling ? Suggestions are welcome…and can serve as a mild therapy for our helplessness.

  11. Rene Daigneault

    Rusty said really well. If people know that doing something costs them something, they would try to think more about it before taking actions.
    The boy’s crime is serious. He’s still young and all of that but not incarcerating him at all won’t help at all either.

  12. Atilla the Hun

    or maybe even slightly to the right of Atilla, but since the trolls think swatting is so harmless, I think we should crowd fund a SPANKING for juveniles that aren’t punished by their judicial system. How much money would it take to find some professionals to grab the little twit, take him somewhere, pull his pants down and beat some sense into the little SOB – videotaping the whole thing and publishing it on the Internet?

  13. Marunette

    I see a whole lot of US natives criticising the Finnish judicial system and find that, in all honesty, ironic as anything. I’m a Finn. Where I come from, we actually believe in fairness. We have no Guantanamo Bays, no white-only police forces in black neighbourhoods, no shoot-first-ask-later policies and we can still feel 100% safe talking to our police officers whenever. Even under the influence of alcohol, provided that we don’t hassle them.

    Your government and big companies break our privacy by collecting information -all the time-, which we’ve never agreed to or given permission to, and yet you want to crack down on a lone young man? I heartily suggest finding some perspective.

    1. Atilla the Hun

      Fairness? So a 17 year old thug attempts to kill (by proxy) someone he doesn’t like, and is tried, and not only gets off, but brags about it, and you think this is fair? Well, it’s obvious (at least) that English isn’t your first language. You need to check the definition of Fair.

      We have problems that a small, largely homogeneous society like Finland doesn’t have, but Guantanamo is nothing more than a prison … you have prisons in Finland, don’t you? We attempt to hire and train the best police we can, and if more whites apply, what are we supposed to do, send no police to black areas at all? Interesting that you said, “PROVIDED we don’t hassle them.” That’s perspective … your system is SO fair, PROVIDED you don’t get in their face. Maybe that’s a lesson to people here who WANT to get in the officer’s face, and then complain about it.

    2. markD

      So psychopathy by an individual is ok if you don’t like another (entire…which is a non sequitur in itself) nation’s social styles? That is the heart of corruptness, moral casual-ness until it applies to you, and really suggests luxury of not having been a victim of an INDIVIDUAL. I don’t think you “see” anything: you “see” what you wish to. Many millions of Americans believe in fairness. Characterizing whole nations, and in particular to excuse blatant and a definitive pattern of criminal behavior (with consequences) is as illogical as it is dismissive and narcissistic. In this country, we call that a “cheap shot.”Look up “non sequitur,” and then try thinking again. If it happened to you, you would not be so grandiose.

    3. Dunton

      That’s the problem. Look at them. These people they don’t even understand how ridiculous they look like, they created a total police mess out of their country up to an extent that they now have swatting and swatters (!) on a mass scale and even with casualties around and instead of at least trying to figure it out right, wake up and say – hey how did that happen and haven’t our cops and police gone completely mad, instead of that, they got Krebs explaining it with good old external enemy even if it’s an underage kid in Finland!!!

      Just in case you don’t know, and I won’t be surprised you don’t, Finland is also known as Laplandia, motherland of Santa-Klaus, but no worries thanks to your police state of swatters and Krebs excellent valuation of Laplandias court system cause he knows better, Laplandia has now two stars in the international culture, Santa and Julious swatter that is, there are almost in the same business anyways.

  14. Katz

    He threatened to kill people. He called in a bomb threat on a plane. How is this a child being harmless?

  15. krebs

    oh such introspection! so does this mean krebs is going to hell for killing aaron schwartz? enough of us sadistic prisons for profit only their particular brand of greedy puritans could cook up. enough of their swat teams and nsa, and when the tables get turned it’s ”boohoo export the sadistic us prison system plz”. and enough of sony’s lobbying to close down the internet, for heaven’s sake, cry me a river.

  16. Jacmac

    Couldn’t this kid be extradited to the US? He’s obviously guilty of crimes here as well as within Finland. If he did a few years in a federal prison here, the Lizard Squad would probably collapse like a wet taco.

  17. Zelco Munye

    Perhaps we could take a page from George R. R. Martin’s series, Game of Thrones. When these bastages get caught, do to them what Vargo Hoat did to Jaime Lannister…or even what Ramsey Bolton did to Theon Greyjoy. Repeat offenders would be few….just a thought.

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