Seldom do people responsible for launching crippling cyberattacks face justice, but increasingly courts around the world are making examples of the few who do get busted for such crimes. On Friday, a 34-year-old Connecticut man received a whopping 10-year prison sentence for carrying out distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against a number of hospitals in 2014. Also last week, a 30-year-old in the United Kingdom was sentenced to 32 months in jail for using an army of hacked devices to crash large portions of Liberia’s Internet access in 2016.
Daniel Kaye, an Israel-U.K. dual citizen, admitted attacking an African phone company in 2016, and to inadvertently knocking out Internet access for much of the country in the process. Kaye launched the attack using a botnet powered by Mirai, a malware strain that enslaves hacked Internet of Things (IoT) devices like poorly-secured Internet routers and Web-based cameras for use in large-scale cyberattacks.
According to court testimony, Kaye was hired in 2015 to attack Lonestar, Liberia’s top mobile phone and Internet provider. Kaye pocketed $10,000 for the attack, which was alleged to have been paid for by an individual working for Cellcom, Lonestar’s competitor in the region. As reported by Israeli news outlet Haaretz, Kaye testified that the attack was ordered by the CEO of Cellcom Liberia.
In February 2017, authorities in the United Kingdom arrested Kaye and extradited him to Germany to face charges of knocking more than 900,000 Germans offline in a Mirai attack in November 2016. Prosecutors withheld Kaye’s full name throughout the trial in Germany, but in July 2017 KrebsOnSecurity published findings that named Kaye as the likely culprit. Kaye ultimately received a suspended sentence for the attack in Germany, and was sent back to the U.K. to face charges there.
The July 2017 KrebsOnSecurity investigation also linked Kaye to the development and sale of a sophisticated piece of spyware named GovRAT, which is documented to have been used in numerous cyber espionage campaigns against governments, financial institutions, defense contractors and more than 100 corporations.
The U.K.’s National Crime Agency called Kaye perhaps the most significant cyber criminal yet caught in Britain. A report on the trial from the BBC says Kaye wept as he was taken away to jail.
Here across the pond, 34-year-old Martin Gottesfeld was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay $443,000 in restitution for damages caused by a series of DDoS attacks he launched against several Boston-area hospitals in 2014. Like Kaye, Gottesfeld was identified thanks to clue he left behind on the Internet: Prosecutors reportedly linked him to a video he uploaded to Youtube about the attack campaign.
The Boston Globe reports that Gottesfeld and his wife in 2016 tried to flee to Cuba in a rented boat, but the trip didn’t go as planned. It seems the high seas had their own denial-of-service in store for the Gottesfelds: They were rescued from the Gulf of Mexico by a Disney ship that answered Martin’s SOS distress call and brought them back to the United States.
Ten years may seem like a stiff sentence for DDoS and fleeing from justice, but as the recipient of hundreds of DDoS attacks over the years I can’t say it bothers me one bit — especially considering how few of the anonymous cowards responsible for DDoS attacks are ever held accountable.
Cue the usual comments here about how these guys deserved jobs and not jail, but I for one am glad the courts are starting to recognize that these are real and costly crimes that deserve equally real consequences. Remember: Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.