Is Your Kid Engaged in a DDoS Attack?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Theresa Payton


I did a research project and story for WBTV earlier this year about botnet herders and how they run marketing campaigns that lure and entice young people into their lair. 

Some savvy kids know exactly what they are partaking in and love the thrill of it.  Some kids think they are doing "work from home" for lucrative pay. 

Often, the parents seem to be the last to know.

If you are not sure what a DDoS attack does to someone's website, I love the description provided by Graham Cluley at Sophos. 

He says to think of  "15 fat men trying to get through a revolving door at the same time".  Got an image?

There are websites and forums that are encouraging people to join a botnet and they are even kind enough to offer you tools to download so you do not have to even bother with any programming. 

This is risky for many reasons, I will highlight a few here:

1.  Why would you trust a tool that was built to attack websites to reside on your computer?  What will it do to your computer?

2.  Legal issues are muddy in cyberspace but we do have legal precedent where people are tried, convicted and paying penalties and/or serving jail time.

Two examples:

a.  A 23 year old man learned this recently as his trial wrapped up and he received a 30 month prison sentence for launch attacks against Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, and Rudy Giuliani.

b.  A 17 year old young man was arrested recently for using "Phenom Booter" which allows gamers to score more points and even block other gamers on the popular game "Call of Duty". The UK has a Computer Misuse Act which he was charged under.

What should we do when kids are behind cybercrime?

By now most of us have read the news that PayPal, Visa, and MasterCard had a rough week on the internet during the busy holiday season.  This was due to distributed denial of service attacks launched against their company websites.

The Dutch National High Tech Crime Team thinks they have caught their man.  Well, sort of, the alleged guilty "man" is just old enough to drive by U.S. standards but not old enough to vote or join the U.S. military. 

The boy has confessed to taking part in the attacks and his computer equipment is under evaluation.

Because of the duration of the attacks, it is believed he did not act alone.  The Dutch Attorney general was quoted in the IDG News article as saying "probably thousands of computers" took part in the attacks.

So what should we do when our kids are behind cybercrime?  Just as we ask in the physical world, where did we fail to teach them right from wrong, what should our response be?

2 Steps to Prevention:

1.  Education - make sure children know that cybercrimes and hacking companies as if it were a sport are a crime

2.  Awareness - teaching parents to look for the signs that their kids are not doing school work or just reaching out to others but are pursuing cybercrimes

If they find this young man guilty as charged, should he be tried as an adult or child?


"Are DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks against the law?" and "Youth arrested over Call of Duty DDoS attack", Graham Cluley, Sophos NakeSecurity, December 9, 2010.

"Dutch Arrest 16 year old related to WikiLeaks Attacks', Jeremy Kirk, IDG News, December 9, 2010. 

Cross-posted from Fortalice

Possibly Related Articles:
Security Awareness
Denial of Service Botnets Cyber Crime DDoS Kids
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Anonymous Legion DDoS is simply a tool employed by Anonymous to make a political statement, similar to a sit-in. Instead of Mr. Cauley's fat men, think of it as college students blocking the door to a business that had refused service to an African American peer in the civil rights movement of the early 60s.

Anonymous was brought to action because we saw a threat to free speech on the internet and felt a need to unite to protect it. At this moment, our DDoS attacks have been called off, and hundreds, if not thousands of people are planning protests around the world in support of the freedom of information, of speech, and of the press.

If you've found the LOIC installed on your computer, do not worry that your child has become a criminal. Instead, perhaps you should be proud that they have taken on a cause, and have decided to try and make some change for the positive in the world.
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