Kids these days: the 16-year-old behind 1.7 million DDoS attacks
Teenagers have typically not been known as the most motivated demographic, napping through classes and slouching through shifts at McDonald’s.
While yelling at a 16-year-old four times just to get him to unload the dishwasher is annoying, consider the other end of the spectrum: the ambitious 16-year-old who earned over $500,000 USD by building a DDoS stresser responsible for 1.7 million attacks, causing millions of dollars in damages.
It’s cool Brayden, you can unload the dishwasher later.
A successful distributed denial of service or DDoS attack is one in which a website or online service is overwhelmed by malicious traffic or requests, pushing the site or service offline so it’s unavailable to its users. DDoS attacks have been big news the last few years. Big news to website owners who have had users frustrated by downtime, to business owners who have suffered reputation damage and monetary losses, to the public at large who have been unable to use websites and services big and small because of these attacks, and big news to the media itself who have been devoting headlines to the ever-growing scourge of attacks.
One of the main reasons for the increase in attacks has been DDoS for hire servers, otherwise known as booters or stressers. For as little as a few dollars, anyone with an internet connection can buy access to a service that allows them to aim a DDoS attack at the targets of their choosing. Stressers are so named because they masquerade as a legitimate tool, one that stresses a server to test its reliability.
This is where Adam Mudd comes in.
In the Mudd
When Adam Mudd was just 16 years old he went to work on the computer in his bedroom and created what he called the Titanium Stresser. Mudd himself carried out 594 distributed denial of service attacks, including an attack against his former college, but those nearly 600 attacks were but a drop in the bucket compared to how busy his stresser got when he opened it up as a DDoS for hire service.
In just over two years the Titanium Stresser racked up 112,000 registered users who launched 1.7 million DDoS attacks against 660,000 IP addresses. There were obviously many repeat targets amongst those 660,000 IP addresses, perhaps most notably the company behind the online game RuneScape which was hit 25,000 times and led to the company spending roughly $10 million in mitigation efforts. Other notable targets of the Titanium Stresser included Sony, Xbox Live, Microsoft and Team Speak. Mudd reportedly earned over $500,000 from his stresser service.
It all came to an end for Mudd in March of 2015 when the police arrived at his parents’ house. Mudd refused to unlock his computer until his father intervened. He has since pleaded guilty to three charges under the United Kingdom Computer Misuse Act, and one charge of money laundering. He was sentenced to 24 months in jail.
The big picture
Mudd was nothing more than a teenager in the bedroom of his parents’ house, yet his stresser service caused millions of dollars in quantitative damages and untold further damages when it comes to lost productivity, lost user loyalty and lost revenue in both the short and long term. There are Adam Mudds all over the world, many more experienced, running stresser services that are just as successful as the Titanium Stresser and even more so.
Further, while Mudd’s arrest and conviction is a success for law enforcement, he joins a list of recent DDoS-related arrests that include members of the famed Lizard Squad, owners of the vDos botnet, and three dozen patrons of stresser services. Hackforums, the biggest hacking forums in the world, also recently banned DDoS for hire services. All seemingly good things. Yet the number of DDoS attacks being perpetrated hasn’t gone down. When the FBI or Interpol shuts down a stresser service, another stresser service simply scoops up its customers.
The lesson here has to be that DDoS attacks can be perpetrated by anyone and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. With stresser services so affordable and accessible, almost every website on the internet is a potential target, and potentially a repeat target. Without professional DDoS protection, websites will be left picking up the pieces and paying exorbitant sums in order to do so.