back to article Brit hacker hired by Liberian telco to nobble rival now behind bars

A Surrey man has been jailed for 32 months after admitting to launching distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against an African telco. Daniel Kaye, 30, of Egham, told the Blackfriars Crown Court that back in 2016 he took a monthly salary from Liberian company Cellcom to carry out a sustained DDoS against their rival …

  1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    DDoS attacks = not cool.

    1. gotes

      Also not a tool of a "highly skilled hacker".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        highly skilled hacker

        Well - if he himself found the Dahua vulnerabilities and learned how to abuse them; and/or is the mastermind behind Mirai - 'highly skilled hacker' fits.

        1. tmTM

          Re: highly skilled hacker

          Not skilled enough to keep out of prison though.

          1. LucreLout Silver badge

            Re: highly skilled hacker

            Not skilled enough to keep out of prison though.

            Even Mitnick wasn't that good.

          2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: highly skilled hacker

            Not skilled enough to keep out of prison though

            Area of 'extertise' in one field (cracking/skiddying) does not imply expertise in another (OpSec)..

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: highly skilled hacker

          "if he himself found the Dahua vulnerabilities"

          He didn't. If you read the Krebbs articles you'll see he was merely another skiddie who commoditised the source code dump.

        3. DropBear Silver badge

          Re: highly skilled hacker

          Huh...? What "vulnerabilities" ?!? Krebs: "In late 2016, the world witnessed the sheer disruptive power of Mirai, a powerful botnet strain fueled by Internet of Things (IoT) devices like DVRs and IP cameras that were put online with factory-default passwords and other poor security settings."

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: highly skilled hacker

            " DVRs and IP cameras that were put online with factory-default passwords "

            It's worse than that. Whilst you can change passwords a lot of the holes are hardcoded.

            1. doublelayer Silver badge

              Re: highly skilled hacker

              In constructing that malware, there was some work finding holes into the systems. Usually, the default passwords were helpful, but a lot of devices that were supposed to have things like web interfaces limited to local subnets or devices behind NATs and thus harder to find had security holes that nonetheless allowed access. UPNP was a major culprit here, though not in the least the only one.

  2. macjules Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Charged with creating a botnet?

    Kaye was arrested in February of 2017 and pled guilty last month to counts of creating and using a botnet and possessing criminal property.

    Perhaps, "pleaded guilty last month to several charges under Section 3 of the Computer Misuse Act 1990: unauthorised acts with intent to impair the operation of a computer, plus possessing criminal property." might be more appropriate?

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Charged with creating a botnet?

      several charges under Section 3 of the Computer Misuse Act 1990

      Too many big words..

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "..with no consideration as to the damage it would cause"

    Um, I'm pretty sure he had very well considered the damage it would cause. What he had not considered was that he might risk getting caught.

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: "..with no consideration as to the damage it would cause"

      Quote is accurate. He was hired by Cellcom to make their competitor Lonestar look bad. He hadn't anticipated that his actions would overwhelm all connections to Liberia - so not just making Lonestar look bad, but knocking everyone in Liberia out - including Cellcom.

  4. lglethal Silver badge
    WTF?

    Sentences for white collar crimes really are soft

    If a thief broke into a house and stole a Rembrandt worth a few million or lets say some bank robbers broke into a bank after hours and stole a few million from the safe. Without violence or much in the way of property damage, they would still be looking at 5-10 years hard time minimum. This guy from the safety of his own home caused millions of dollars in damage to a telco, inconvenienced hundreds of thousands of customers, took down the internet for an entire country, AND is implicated in similar attacks on other firms (including banks) and he gets less than 3 years.

    I guess the lesson is, If you're going to be a criminal, be a white collar ciminal...

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Sentences for white collar crimes really are soft

      "This guy from the safety of his own home caused millions of dollars in damage to a telco, inconvenienced hundreds of thousands of customers, took down the internet for an entire country, AND is implicated in similar attacks on other firms (including banks) and he gets less than 3 years."

      It was only BECAUSE of the telcos and banks that law enforcement took an interest.

      He and his friends have been knocking smaller hosters offline with DDoS attacks for years for commercial gain without so much as an eyelid being batted. This is why companies like Akamai have been able to make a fortune in providing DDoS protection services.

      It's only when the companies being affected are large enough to have political clout that cages start to be rattled.

    2. c1ue

      Re: Sentences for white collar crimes really are soft

      Yes, but the comment doesn't go far enough.

      This fellow isn't very smart because white collar crime in the form of market rigging, front running, other bankster tactics would yield millions in his own pocket rather than just millions of damages and tens of thousands in pocket.

    3. LucreLout Silver badge

      Re: Sentences for white collar crimes really are soft

      Without violence or much in the way of property damage, they would still be looking at 5-10 years hard time minimum.

      You overestimate the importance of violence to the criminal justice system. If you assualt someone serious enough that you break their nose, plead guilty to a single punch and have no previous criminal record, you WILL walk out of court with only a suspended tariff to enjoy.

  5. Michael

    Trial in the UK

    I note that we seem able to hold a trial in the UK for a crime that was carried out in other jurisdictions. Why can't this be done when the attack is against America? Although I note he was in Germany for trial also.

    1. IneptAdept

      Re: Trial in the UK

      Because that would not be what are large american overlords would want

    2. Alan Mackenzie

      Re: Trial in the UK

      The crime was committed in England, even if the effect was felt elsewhere. Therefore the English courts, correctly, had jurisdiction.

      1. Dog Eatdog

        Re: Trial in the UK

        "Living in Cyprus at the time..." suggests the attacks were NOT carried out in England.

        1. Stevie Silver badge

          Re:"Living in Cyprus at the time..."

          Then I hope he was in the Greek bit if there's a jurisdiction war, because I just watched Lawrence of Arabia and what the Turks will allegedly do to a suspect of skullduggery doesn't bear thinking about (but coincidentally rhymes with skullduggery).

    3. Rustbucket

      Re: Trial in the UK

      Because the major attackers against the US are usually sited in places like Russia, China or North Korea. Good luck getting those countries' authorities to cooperate.

  6. Alan Brown Silver badge

    He was hiring the attack net OUT

    Not renting it IN.

    FFS the BBC article on this was more in depth and accurate overall than the bolloxed pile of fetid dingo kidneys that's been posted on El Reg.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-46840461 - also goes into more depth about the german charges

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-surrey-41115800

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/01/11/briton-knocked-entire-country-offline-cyber-attack-jailed/

    In any case, he was a skiddie not a hacker.

    https://www.zdnet.com/article/hacker-bestbuy-sentenced-to-prison-for-operating-mirai-ddos-botnet/

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: He was hiring the attack net OUT

      The two are not incompatible. This article says that he rented infected devices from others to bulk out his net. That's a detail not in the Beeb's report (which, BTW, isn't even by one of the their tech reporters). It wouldn't be the first time that a report by el Reg has more information on technical matters than the BBC.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: He was hiring the attack net OUT

        Nope. One of the other Beeb articles on the goings on at Blackfriars stated charges related to a number of other DDoS attacks were dropped because they were attributed to him hiring the DDoS net out to 3rd parties (Why that would let him off the hook I don't know either)

        He was bulking things out all by himself - it was the scanning for more victims to add to his botnet which caused the outages at TalkTalk, Postoffice and Deutsche Telekom when he knocked over vulnerable enduser routers on those networks

        https://krebsonsecurity.com/2017/07/who-is-the-govrat-author-and-mirai-botmaster-bestbuy/

        https://krebsonsecurity.com/tag/daniel-kaye/

        Contrary to claims he's not the first person to knock entire countries off air. It was quite easy for IRC skiddies to do it in the 90s when a lot of places were only on 128/256kb/s links - and a fairly regular occurance. Interestingly the people concerned had Israeli skiddie connections back then too.

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: He was hiring the attack net OUT

        isn't even by one of the their tech reporters

        And so is probably more accurate than their usual "hey - I can use an iPhone so I must be a techie!" reporters..

        At least the non-techies know that they have to do some research.

  7. Wellyboot Silver badge

    Do the Liberians want him for Trial?

    If I'm correct here - He was convicted here for operating a botnet for payment from within the UK, Not for the events covered by the separate German case or the specific Liberian DDoS, these will just be used as evidence for the activities he actually conducted here.

    If he'd been implicated with a DDoS in the USA I'd expect extradition papers to be served as he steps out of the prison front door.

    Lots of separate jurisdictions with individual cases to answer patiently waiting their turn, no different to a jewel thief being implicated in robberies in several different countries.

    1. Dog Eatdog

      Re: Do the Liberians want him for Trial?

      Wrong. He was convicted for the crime against Liberia.

      From the BBC: "Launching cyber attacks against Lonestar in Liberia - another crime under the Computer Misuse Act"

      https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-46840461

  8. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What Kaye did

    "If I'm correct here - He was convicted here for operating a botnet for payment from within the UK, Not for the events covered by the separate German case or the specific Liberian DDoS, these will just be used as evidence for the activities he actually conducted here."

    No, you are wrong. The botnet was run from Cyprus. He was tried in Germany - and pleaded guilty - for the collateral damage in Germany caused by his efforts. He was tried in the UK for the Cyprus >> Liberia activity because sections 4 and 5 of the Computer Misuse Act 1990 gave the UK courts jurisdiction.

    What some see as a relatively modest sentence reflects the fact that he pleaded guilty at a very early stage - in fact the German courts said he was fully co-operative and it was German police work that the NCA relied on.

    NCA also investigated whether Kaye was responsible for DDoS attacks and associated extortion demands on UK banks - but these charges were withdrawn before trial.

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: What Kaye did

      thanks a/c, that gives some clarification.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: What Kaye did

      "but these charges were withdrawn before trial"

      These were the parts where he rented his botnets out to 3rd parties.

      At 28, he knew damned well what he was doing. My dealings with IRC skiddies showed that they either grew out of it by 15-16 or became habitual criminals - and one who was covered in El Reg in the early 2000s over a number of court appearances popped his head above my radar recently - showing that leopards don't change their spots despite accruing convictions and supposedly being very sorry for what they did.

  10. mr-slappy

    Daniel Kaye?

    Sounds like a bit of a Walter Mitty character

    1. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Daniel Kaye?

      Well, he has a good grasp of Civilisation now I think.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bandwidth!

    "That botnet, referred to as "#14" by researchers, was among the largest on the internet"

    Ouch, now consider the collateral cost in bandwidth to anyone whose network was traversed by groups of bots participating in these attacks.

    "Kaye was a talented and sophisticated cyber criminal who created one of the world's largest networks of compromised computers which he then made available to other cyber criminals with no consideration as to the damage it would cause," said Russell Tyner from the UK Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)

    Yeah, thanks for big-upping this asshole's ego.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Bandwidth!

      Yeah, thanks for big-upping this asshole's ego.

      I think that's a side effect of the plod and the prosecutor's self-ego enhancing statement. All prosecutor's seem to do this as if to show that they are smarter than the crims and to justify their time on the case. It also hides the fact that most of them have little clue about all things computer related.

      IOW, it's bluster for the masses.

    2. DCFusor Silver badge

      Re: Bandwidth!

      They were patting *themselves* on the back, AC. There's no glory in busting a trivial simpleton....

  12. John Savard Silver badge

    Others to Be Found

    Have the Liberian authorities brought those in Cellcom who decided to hire him for this purpose to justice?

    That's the first question that was on my mind as I read this article.

    1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: Others to Be Found

      "

      Have the Liberian authorities brought those in Cellcom who decided to hire him for this purpose to justice?

      "

      No, they unfortunately suffered completely unconnected accidents or fatal attacks from muggers before they had a chance to bribe the police.

    2. John Savard Silver badge

      Re: Others to Be Found

      I did a search. Apparently one rogue employee at Cellcom had hired him. During the time when this was happening, Cellcom got bought out by a reputable European company, Orange.

      Whether this rogue employee faced any consequences yet, though, I haven't found out.

      But the rival telecom that was the intended victim has launched a civil suit against Cellcom - and this suit was launched in UK courts, not Liberian ones.

  13. NLCSGRV

    Hopefully when he has finished serving his sentence, Liberia will seek his extradition. I'd love to see this jumped-up script kiddie do time in a West African jail.

    1. GrapeBunch

      In related news, on June 9th, 2022, Liberian President for Life Daniel Kaye today opened Liberia's first Duty Free Port.

      Mr. President was overheard to say: "Because, in Africa, Life is not squiggly enough yet."

  14. Criggie
    Joke

    Just goes to show, one should never trifle with Librarians.

  15. Dog Eatdog

    Cheap!

    According to the BBC he was only paid US$ 10,000 per month for his DDoS attack in Liberia

    https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-46840461

    I assume he had several such things on the go simultaneously, or he probably could have earned a similar amount working for the white hats,

  16. TheGriz
    Holmes

    Corporate Culpability???

    . . . he took a monthly salary from Liberian company Cellcom to carry out a sustained DDoS against their rival telco Lonestar . . .

    What (if any) penalty does the adversary telecom Cellcom that hired the bloak get? That is a more interesting story in my opinion, if he was being PAID by them, they are the real guilty party here. Not trying to pardon the hacker wanna be, but he was hired and paid by one teleco to attack their competition, which in my own personal opinion is much more devious than some script kiddie DDOS'ing them for kicks or Internetz Fame.

    Heads should roll at Cellcom, from the top down, based on how much their corporate management KNEW about them hiring a hacker for nefarious deeds.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019