Daniel Kaye, 30, has been sentenced by a U.K. court to two years and eight months in prison after he was found guilty of launching a cyberattack that knocked out the internet across the whole of Liberia.
Kaye, a British citizen that lived in Cyprus at the time, is a self-taught hacker that offered his services on the dark web.
He had been hired to attack Lonestar, which is Liberia’s most influential internet and mobile phone company.
The recruitment was done by an employee at the rival operator Cellcom, although there is no evidence which suggests that Cellcom knew what the individual was doing.
The U.K. National Crime Agency claimed that the damage from the attack reached tens of millions of dollars.
It is thought to be the first example in history of a single hacker disrupting an entire nation’s internet.
The Attack and the Man Behind It
Kaye, also known online as “BestBuy” and “Popopret,” gave people the chance to defeat their business rivals.
He had created a botnet, a series of computers connected to attack systems by overwhelming them and making it impossible for the systems to function normally.
It is also known as a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack.
Kaye rented his botnet, and one of the structures that hired him was Cellcom.
The DDoS attack involved the Mirai code, which is an infamous malware strain that infects routers and IoT devices and turns them into “zombies” that can be used later as a part of a botnet in large-scale network attacks.
The investigation showed that the hacker was paid £30,000 by an employee at Cellcom to obstruct Lonestar’s services between the months of October 2016 and February 2017.
Kaye ordered the botnet to overwhelm Lonestar’s system, and in response, the system struggled to manage the demands.
Mobile phones started going offline, and at the peak of the attack, the Mirai code had compromised around 1 million devices.
Lonestar called in cybersecurity consultants in hopes to fight off the aggressive act, but by then it was too late.
Kaye’s attack caused the company to spend around $600,000 in repairing the damage, while also losing revenue because many customers left the network.
Following the attack on Lonestar, Kaye attempted to hijack routers from the networks of Deutsche Telekom, which did nothing but attract law enforcement’s interest towards him.
In February 2017, the U.K. police arrested the hacker as a suspect for the Lonestar attack at a London airport as he was returning to the country from a vacation.
He was carrying $10,000 with him, money which the investigators assume were a part of the payments he received for the Lonestar attack.
Germany asked for Kaye to be extradited, and he was convicted of interfering with the Deutsche Telekom system, receiving a suspended prison sentence.
Later on, the German authorities extradited Kaye back to Britain where he had to face far more serious charges regarding the Liberia attack.
Kaye pleaded guilty to two offenses under the Computer Misuse Act—making the Mirai botnet and launching cyberattacks against Lonestar as well as one charge of possessing criminal property, referring to the $10,000 found on him when he was arrested.
He was seen weeping as the Blackfriars Crown Court delivered his 32-month sentence.
Mike Hulett of the National Crime Agency told news reporters that they were still trying to get to the bottom of Kaye’s criminal activities around the world and that his actions perfectly capture the borderless nature of cybercrime.
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