'Mafiaboy' hacker arrested for attacks on major websites

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The Independent US

Police have arrested a 15-year-old suspect in the attacks that paralysed some of the world's largest internet sites in February. The boy, known by his handle name "Mafiaboy", has been charged in Canada as part of a long probe by the Mounties and the FBI.

The Canadian police said yesterday: "The investigation has given authorities the opportunity to bring light to internet attacks that have strongly shaken the heart of electronic commerce worldwide, causing losses that were evaluated at many hundreds of millions of US dollars."

The boy, who was arrested on Saturday, was charged with bringing the CNN.com site to a grinding halt with a Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attack which sent a message to the site from many computers simultaneously.

The attack had been thought to be so complex that it would have required teams of experts, but ended in the arrest of just one teenager. Staff Sergeant Jean-Pierre Roy, of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), said: "He had a good knowledge of computers but he was not what we would call a genius."

The boy could serve up to 10 years in prison, the Canadian authorities said. In response to complaints that 10 years was too harsh, US attorney general Janet Reno said it was appropriate. "I think that it's important first of all that we look at what we've seen and let young people know that they are not going to be able to get away with something like this scot-free,'' she said.

The boy cannot be named under Canadian law. He was charged on Monday with two counts of mischief to data, the Mounties said yesterday. Investigations are continuing into other attacks, which brought down a series of large sites in February in what appeared to be a co-ordinated assault but may also have been the result of teenagers messing around.

The boy's bail conditions include not using a computer except for academic purposes, and with a teacher's supervision. Police said he had used computers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, taking over computers elsewhere to use for the systematic attacks, with software that is easily available on the internet.

Delphi Supernet, a Montreal-based internet service provider, had told police someone using the handle held two accounts with the company.

The investigation was conducted with help from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Infrastructure Protection Centre and the Justice Department.

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