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Tracking Mafiaboy 277

Cruciform writes "The National Post has an article on the police effort to track Mafiaboy two years ago as the DoS attacks raged against Yahoo, E-trade and others. An interesting read." Its a fairly lengthy story with lots of little bits in this tale of a script kiddie.
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Tracking Mafiaboy

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  • by jeffy124 ( 453342 ) on Monday May 27, 2002 @01:52PM (#3591325) Homepage Journal
    the article showed something about a family's influence. Mafiaboy's father was a business type that cared little about his kids, resulting in some problems for them, as shown in Mafiaboy's DoS actions and problems in school (suspensions, expelled from one school, etc). During the investigations of the DoS attacks, they found that the father was trying to hire a hitman to kill a business associate for getting screwed on a deal.

    If anything, it shows why good family life generally fosters good behavior in kids. I wouldnt be surprised if other 5r1p7 k1dd135 out there have similar family life to that of Mafiaboy.
    • I honestly don't think family has much to do with, it is more a show of "5ki11z". It is simply a kid wanting to show the world/friends that he has the power to "h4xx0r" (crack) into a system or cause a denial of service. Quite honestly, I don't think this kid is much different from he predessors, it is just about time and place.
      • I honestly don't think family has much to do with, it is more a show of "5ki11z". It is simply a kid wanting to show the world/friends that he has the power to "h4xx0r" (crack) into a system or cause a denial of service. Quite honestly, I don't think this kid is much different from he predessors, it is just about time and place.

        I don't know about this case but why is it far fetched that his home life had some sort of influence?

        If he didn't think he got the recognition at home, at school or with his friends why not take it out on someone else. Why not try to show his skills, or what little ones he had.
        • It's easy to observe that when children feel as though they are not having enough attention paid to them, they act out. Negative attention is better than feeling invisible. Some kids shoplift, some kids set things on fire, some kids torture small animals to feel as though they have an impact on things. Cracking or malicious-hacking is just another way of attracting attention. In a lot of ways, I'd say it's an even better way of attracting attention because of the impact that it can have, and because it (supposedly) involves some amount of skill.

          If you read the entire article, you'll recall that the boy's brother was bragging about him, and his father was even somewhat proud of his son's 'skill'. Imagine how sweet this might be to a boy who has been ignored most of his life. Yeah. Upbringing and family life have a LOT to do with a kid's motivations for lashing out, be it digital or physical.

          • ...because it (supposedly) involves some amount of skill...

            well it DOES require some skill but more importantly it requires time... LOTS of time... if his parents/friends did stuff with his he would not have spent all his time working on these malicious attacks... so he spends all this time working on something of course he wants SOMETHING bad... what did he do... he smeared his name all over the place... of course he was SCREAMING for attention... dont just pass off these people as "script kiddies" and just tell them to go away...

            personally i dont know ONE hacker, REAL hackers included that have not once intheir life thought "wow i could EASILY take out a system for no reason and brag and it would be COOL"... everyone thinks it so stop trying to hide it and work on it... maybe if these people could meet someone who would help them learn some ethics they could do so much more but because of the nature of the internet sometimes people are exposed to things that they might not be able to handle...
            • Agreed. The article says that the kid had obviously researched his targets rather thoroughly. This takes time, planning, understanding, and an extreme desire for attention.

              He was a script kiddie, though. He took the scripts and apps of other people and used them for what he did. He did not seem to have a thorough understanding of the things he was doing, the article says he had to type commands several times before they'd work. I don't know about you, but even things I use casually are embedded in my fingertips, and having to retype a command isn't a very common occurence. Having to retype it 3-4 times is a non-occurence.

              If the kid had been a real hacker (using the geek-culture definition of the word...) He would have taken that time and desire for recognition and learned new OSes thoroughly, written a program or ten, or taken up a more positive pursuit. Or at the very least, I believe that he would have been too afraid of doing what he did--because he'd know of the limitations he'd face in the future. Being shackled in the computer world would be far too painful a thing for someone who was really into it.

              If you want to play in the Pros, you stay away from drugs. If you want to have your freedom on the internet, you stay away from illegal activities.

              Or you become so damned good at covering your tracks that no one could ever find you.

              • I agree with you but what i meant to stress more was that this kid did what many other people want to do, pull off a hack and let people know about it. I remember when i was starting out with computers, it was such a thrill to know i could cause damage to other systems and meanwhile claim to be so much more superior to them. I am glad that i was able to be guided into a path in life where i DONT maliciously hack. Unfortunatly it was a long time ago that i first got into computers, the days of the BBS, in that time people were much more willing to help you out... guide you.

                The problem with the big anonymous internet is nobody cares, people say "screw those script kiddies" but in my personal experiance every REAL hacker i have known started out as a script kiddie, i did. I can admit that i used to use tools of other people creation and use them for malicious activities, this is where everyone has to start. They hear about comptuers, they like the possabilities, but it can be too much too fast. Children need to be protected from more damaging things than pornography on the internet. If a child browses around for a while s/he could eaily find a way to casue real damage, THAT is what people need to be protected from.

                When i used to use IRC a lot more iwould be talking in a channel and some newb would come on and say "teach me to hack". Of course this was an instant ban but i followed this person into personal chat and told them EXACTLY how to hack. Get books, read em, and experiment.

                I think those out in the online community who understand about computers need to help new people. I personally hold all the elitist people out ther responsible for these attacks. It's their arrogance that fosters these people to lash out in violent ways such as scripted attacks.

      • by Cmdr Taco (luser) ( 578089 ) on Monday May 27, 2002 @02:43PM (#3591548)
        Oh, come on. Did you read the whole article?

        "Knesek recalls the wiretap and a portrait of a dysfunctional family. There were padlocks on the doors of the brothers' bedrooms. Mafiaboy "saw a lot, dealt with a lot, took a lot," recalled Knesek."

        That, plus the part about the father being prosecuted for hiring a hit man, hints that some pretty freaky shit may have been going down in that house. At the very least, the boys were being raised in an ammoral atmosphere; it may have been worse than that. We'll probably never know what other bits of nastiness the feds got from the wiretaps.

        Some years ago, a girl from my high school (years after I graduated) teamed up with a friend and ambushed her parents with a shotgun and an ax. Real messy stuff. Folks went around saying "How could that sweet girl ever do something like that?" It turned out in the trial that, since she could remember, she was abused physically and sexually, shared sexually with other cretins, was the object of homemade porn and was provided with a wide variety of drugs.

        I'm not saying that sort of thing was going on in mafiaboy's case, but I've developed a deep [dis]repect for damages that can be done throught the effects of a "dysfunctional" family setting.

    • Everybody knows that it's the fault of subversive artists like Marilyn Manson and Rage Against the Machine, coupled with violent games like Quake and lewd games like The Sims. Hell, if they dig deep enough, they'd probably find a few Al Qaida operatives in the mix.

      Dirty pinko communist.
  • by AirLace ( 86148 ) on Monday May 27, 2002 @01:54PM (#3591336)
    Funny how the term "script kiddie" is nowadays applied to almost any cracker. Back in the days were men were men and hackers were coders, "script kiddie" was pretty specifically a reference to individuals who used the scripts of others in the security community to bad ends, without really understanding what was going on (winnuke.exe, anyone?). On the other hand, surely this "mafiaboy" character had at least a proficient knowledge of scripting languages and programming to have put together such a massive operation as this? I'd call him a black hat hacker or cracker -- but definitely not "script kiddie".

    By using words like these in the wrong context, we're linguistically painting orselves into a corner.
    This reminds me of something C. S. Lewis once wrote []:

    The word gentleman 'originally meant something recognisable; one who had a coat of arms and some landed property. When you called someone 'a gentleman' you were not paying him a compliment, but merely stating a fact. If you said he was not 'a gentleman' you were not insulting him, but giving information. There was no contradiction in saying that John was a liar and a gentleman; any more than there now is in saying that James is a fool and an M.A. But then there came people who said - so rightly, charitably, spiritually, sensitively, so anything but usefully - 'Ah but surely the important thing about a gentleman is not the coat of arms and the land, but the behaviour? Surely he is the true gentleman who behaves as a gentleman should? Surely in that sense Edward is far more truly a gentleman than John?' They meant well.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      The word "gay" used to mean something totally different too. Your point?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 27, 2002 @01:58PM (#3591351)
      Didn't you read the part where the effabeeeye were watching his 'hacking' activity? It involved using logins/passwords given to him by others and using _hacking tools_ he downloaded off the Internet, and it took him a few attempts to get the commands right. If you use a tool that is created for the sole purpose of hacking, you are a script kiddie. This kid is a script kiddie, nothing more, and he should have been locked up for a while. Stupid teenage shitbag.
    • Back in the days were men were men and hackers were coders,

      What a pity this term has been lost to us - and all we seem to have lest is a picking up of 'geek' - something I occasionally call myself when I have to, but I'd rather 'hacker'.

      I shall have to make do with just enjoying what I do.

      a grrl & her server []
  • simple lesson (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jucius Maximus ( 229128 ) <> on Monday May 27, 2002 @01:54PM (#3591339) Journal
    I read this article this morning ...

    The lesson is that 'MafiaBoy' was just stupid. He went and hacked sites and publicly bragged about it. He even asked people to dictate his next target.

    If you go and rob a store and then brag about how you did it at the bar, you're gonna get caught.

    Stupid stupid stupid...

    • Re:simple lesson (Score:3, Insightful)

      by GigsVT ( 208848 )
      It wasn't stupid when you frame it differently. He wanted the attention, he got more attention than he ever bargained for. He was wildly sucessful in accomplishing his goals. He is almost a household name.

    • The "simple lesson" here is not that if one commits a crime, one should not brag about it. The lesson is that one should not be a self-centered little prick, with a corollary that messing with other people's stuff as a means of showing off will just piss everyone off and eventually land your arrogant ass in jail.

      Even if he hadn't bragged, there's little doubt in my mind that he would have been tracked down and punished, and rightly so.

  • by eyegor ( 148503 ) on Monday May 27, 2002 @01:55PM (#3591346)

    Should be required reading for all script kiddies and wanna-bes.

    It's damn difficult to totally cover your tracks. Unless you're truely elite, if the FBI wants you badly enough, they'll find you and you'll be making some hairy-backed felon a very happy man.

    • It's damn difficult to totally cover your tracks

      Well, Mafiaboy himself sure helped. From the article:
      The administrators at the university produced a copy of the attack tool used, which was registered to a user named Mafiaboy...

      Moral of the story: don't register your hacking software back to yourself. Kinda like "don't sign each counterfeit bill you make".
    • Unless you're truely elite, if the FBI wants you badly enough, they'll find you

      or someone else. The FBI isn't infallable, and aren't as amazing as cop shows make them out to be. They rely on informants and the criminal screwing up, just like other police organizations. This kid got caught because he bragged and wanted everyone to know he did it...let's not go patting the FBI on the back too much.

      Sometimes though, when the public wants someone caught bad enough, and there are no leads (or they aren't allowed to get the person who did it), it's time to find the person who didn't do it and convict them. There are plenty of prisoners who pled 'not guilty', and the evidence used against them just doesn't add up, but still found themselves stuffed away and never heard from again because these organizations needed to save face in the public eye.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 27, 2002 @01:56PM (#3591349)
    where he is not allowed to use any software that is not commercially available as part of his sentance. What does free software have to do with this?
  • Small attacks (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The funny part is that there was nothing new about the attacks. They were not especially large even, he just targeted e-commerce sites instead of IRC servers.

    Attacks of gigabit magnitude happen very often. The tricky part is actually concentrating that kind of bandwidth on a target without bringing down the links halfway to the target.
  • From what i got from the artcile the moral of the story (beyond not being a script kiddie) Is to only attack one site then totaly change your methods/location. Even after they knew it was mafiaboy, they still had to wait tell he did another attack to capture real-time evidence..
  • Just so people know the definitions of certain words (although I do presume that most of the slashdot community are familiar with these):
    script kiddies []

    hacker []

    cracker []
  • by S Nichol ( 230334 ) on Monday May 27, 2002 @02:09PM (#3591389)
    I read this article in the paper version on Saturday, and it immediately made me think of a person I know. "Mike" is really big on trading "warez" and playing "gamez" (in fact, that is all he is doing these days).

    Having known "Mike" for over 5 years, I can attest that he is not lacking for brains, especially with computers, but he just can't be bothered to apply himself to some productive end.
    He is not especially interested in doing any worthwhile computer training now that he's finished high school. Strangely, his parents complain about this but can't be bothered with doing anything about it.

    "Mike" seems to be typical of the script kiddies I've encountered... generally smart, but can't be bothered to put in the effort to do anything. Is this the experience of everyone/anyone else?

    I'm also wondering if anyone has any tips for weaning people off the "warez d00d" "l33t" trip, ie. actually putting their brains to some productive use. Perhaps an AA style "five step plan"?
    • Raising awareness concerning important issues might be one method of getting the attention of some of them. Give them a cause, something to make a difference in our world. It gives a purpose and sense of responsibility. I understand, somewhat, the frustration these guys are feeling. Kind of lost in world of neon distraction (thanks tool). Maybe. Lets give them some Emma Goldman to read. In html, of course.
    • Have his parents kick him out. That should do it. Nothing like food and shelter to provide motivation. It makes me get up every morning and go to work. I'd rather sit at home and warez and play games too...but that's life.
    • Well, in my experience I went through these stages:

      @ Inquisitive - Messing with basic commands, learning more about the operating systems etc

      @ Learning - Starting to program, learning more about the deeper parts of the operating systems

      @ L33t age - Using programs to make basic trojans, basically copying from people - this "l33t trip" is what you're on about.

      @ Moving on - Getting bored of the earlier stage, I wanted to do something really cool - using someones program wasnt satisfying enough. You know the kind, making exploits, basic shellcodes etc, the stuff that an informed person would call "black hat"

      @ Enlightened (:p) - Finally realising that there is more challenge in doing something productive (debatable, sure) and learning about things in even more depth, and understanding how to fool these "black hats". Outsmarting the smarts as it were - this was definitely more challenging and theefore a better "high".

      @ ? - Where does this lead me? :)

      Now, the transistions between the stage are not always made - most people will make the transistion from the "inquisitive" age to the "learning" age and possibly onto the "L33t age". Some people stop there, some intelligent people go on to the "Moving on" age. A lot of people stop here, some people go on to the "Enlightened" age.

      I've helped a few script kiddies progress through the ages, getting them onto the "Enlightened" stage hopefully - some miss the moving on stage, realising early that what they're doing may not let them strive to their full potential. Personally, I think that its something that we all go through, and it wouldnt be a good idea to prevent the rebellious nature of newbies, rather make them realise that they can do something better than they already are...
    • give him a CCNA studyguide, tell him that by learning how the backbone of the internet works he will gain the knowledge to really 0wn shiite like mad with his super l33t router knowledge.

      he'll either end up in jail or making 50 grand a year in no time ;)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 27, 2002 @02:10PM (#3591391)
    "The 14-year-old boy who liked basketball and girls would soon capture the attention of the entire online world"

    Surely an interest in basketball and girls would make him ineligable as a hardcore cracker? I mean such wholesome interests, how could this possibly happen?!?
  • Phew! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rsklnkv ( 532866 ) <rsklnkv.houseofthedead@org> on Monday May 27, 2002 @02:12PM (#3591399) Homepage Journal
    Good to know he's going to jail! I mean, now he will reform after spending countless hours locked in a room recieving nothing but negative attention. The reign of chaos he was about to bring upon us was narrowly avoided. He must be one of those terrorists. *End sarcasm* This kid is another fine example of the product our society is producing.
    • Re:Phew! (Score:3, Funny)

      by puppetman ( 131489 )
      Only if you're Canadian. Blame Canada. Of course, he's actually from Quebec, so blame them.
    • Please remember that, at least here in USA, jailtime is intended just as much as a deterrent as "correction." Theoretically, the purpose of putting the kid in the slammer isn't to protect society from Mafiaboy, but to make the next kid think, "I don't wanna go to the slammer like Mafiaboy."
  • Judge's ruling silly (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tapiwa ( 52055 ) on Monday May 27, 2002 @02:13PM (#3591403) Homepage
    How is this for a ruling by the judge??
    The judge also prohibited him from possessing any software not commercially available and banned him from using the Internet to talk with other hackers and hacking into any other Websites.

    What is commercially available software?? Do GPL products only available for free download count?

    Also, how do you ban someone from talking with hackers??? I think the true definition of what a hacker is was lost on the judge.

    Lastly, why ban someone from doing something which is illegal anyway... hacking into other websites? The ruling should be modded down to -5 reduntant. :-)

    • by Papineau ( 527159 ) on Monday May 27, 2002 @02:26PM (#3591440) Homepage
      Whitout the judge's exact ruling, you can't say for sure if there are loopholes (or problems) with it. Remember it's a recap by a journalist, which he probably interpreted some way or the other.

      "Commercially available": if I sell commercially (or offer to sell commercially, along with a free (beer) version) some cracking tools (with or without a warning about not using them on other networks), can Mafiaboy use them?

      For the "hackers", the judge probably didn't use that word, and it was probably more geared towards IRCing in crackerz (or 31337) chatrooms.

      And your last point... it means if he does it again, he is liable for doing it in the first place, and then for doing it when a judge told him not to do it. I'm not sure about the name of that charge though, but it's more serious (recidivist).
      • If it was not the judge who banned "non comercialy available" software, then it was the article that put the sinister spin on tools, "not normal". As you pointed out, we don't have the wording of his ruling so we can't tell. I don't like the inference in either case.

        My money is on the article. The whole thing was more a lowbrow detective story than it was a technology piece. Note how the author explained how it was possible to tell html packets but email was harder. Huh? plain text email hard to sniff? OK. Seems like the detective had a better grip on things than the author, but really the whole set up was not too sophisticated. The RCMP just happened to overhear this scrpt kiddie in the IRC nest set up to spy on people.

        We can hope the judgement was more sensible. In general, your rights end on conviction. In the US, felons are not alowed to own firearms or vote and can legally be kept from positions of trust and influence. The idea is that a felon has proved untrustworthy. Maphia boy may very well have been banned from owning or using computers at all. Then again, there would be some justice to forcing him to view the world though MS internet exploder and AOL for the rest of his life. No telnet, ftp or compilers for you, kiddie! Ha ha ha!

    • The judge did what he believed was best for limiting the individual from doing it again.

      Most people don't understand (or care to understand) that there is a difference between "commercially available software" and GPL shit.

      The Judge probalby believed (rightfully so) that the individual used the Internet to learn about, discuss, and carry out his attacks. To the judge, limiting his access was the best way to limit most of his methods.

      If he didn't "ban" him from doing it again, the individual might feel it was a slap on the wrist and think the ruling at FACE VALUE and do it again b/c the judge didn't specifically say he could not.
    • Actually, this would seem to show computers are becoming more ubiquitous and/or necessary to daily life, in that the traditional restraining order to stay away from all computers, etc. wasn't applied here (or is that somewhat apocryphal?)
    • by Permission Denied ( 551645 ) on Monday May 27, 2002 @02:56PM (#3591620) Journal
      What is commercially available software?? Do GPL products only available for free download count?

      Spare me the sob story. If it were up to me, I'd keep this kid away from any general-purpose computer and have him complete his studies in juvie the old-fashioned way, with paper and pencil. Perhaps I would have allowed him to use a computer, but only if the computer had no modem, no NIC, no anything - I'll bet this kid never did anything off-line except play games.

      We don't have the judge's actual ruling, only a snippit from a reporter, so we shouldn't even be discussing this - the judge may have given a very specific definition. If that definition excludes some possibly useful and harmless program, well then tant pis; the judge was generous enough allowing the kid anywhere near a computer as this kid has never used his computer for anything useful (Starcraft, IRC and launching DOS attacks are not useful nor educational).

      I think the true definition of what a hacker is was lost on the judge.

      This "true definition" is completely rejected by mainstream America, and in fact, by most of the computing world, both in academia and the business world, both inside and outside of the US. The definition of hacker that you'll find in the New Hacker's Dictionary is an MIT-ism. Nobody outside of MIT ever uses it, and the FSF is so intimately intertwined with MIT that they don't realize this.

      The old-school "hackers" that you're talking about never dwelled in the script kiddie community. RMS was a math prodigy at Harvard; ESR was math and philosophy guy and never took a computer class; Larry Wall was trained as a linguist at Berkeley during the time when BSD was created, but he never touched Unix at Berkeley. And yet you would claim that barring this kid from using a specific set of software is going to stunt his growth?

      So let's be honest: the warez hoarders and the script-kiddies on IRC - nothing useful has ever come out of these communities. All it has done is sully the reputation and the arguments of those who actually do any useful work: when Johannsen claims to a judge that he had a legitimate purpose for writing DeCSS, the judge won't believe him as he (and his peers) have already heard the same argument a thousand times from warez kiddies and the script kiddies trying to "show off" bad security.

      My point here is that there is very little overlap between the kiddies and the "hackers" your talking about - all your insistence on propagating this MIT-ism of "hacker" does is confuse people as to which is which.

    • You mean, they're letting the script kiddy USE the computer? they're letting him USE the internet still? And his only "restriction" if you can call it that, is to not use the script kiddy software, and to not associate with people involved in disreptuable activities.

      Ya know, conditions of parole/probation are that you A. not break the law and B. not associate with people that do. And usually, you are also assigned restrictions to some excess related to the crime you were convicted of. If you get a DUI, you'll probably be banned from drinking, during the period of your probation. That's NORMAL.

      So the poor little script kiddie has a laundry list of "you can't do this" kinda things in exchange for not having to sit in a jail cell for several years. My heart goes out to him. No really. :) *snicker*

  • inaccurate? (Score:5, Funny)

    by KidSock ( 150684 ) on Monday May 27, 2002 @02:14PM (#3591404)
    By the time it was over, the Yahoo! attack alone would involve enough data to fill 630 pickup trucks with paper.

    But what font size did they use?
  • Just goes to show you what any kid with a high-speed line can do. Too bad this kid wasn't smart/experienced enough to cover his tracks the first time.

    He let his ego get in the way after the Yahoo and Amazon attacks... he deserved to get caught. If he had just layed low he probably coulda got away with it.

  • Peachy.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Monday May 27, 2002 @02:20PM (#3591424) Homepage Journal
    Just what we need - more ego stroking for Mafiaboy. Doesn't anybody understand that articles like this are what drives these assholes into making these attacks? They do this for the egobo - "Look at me! All these major news outlets are talking about me! Aren't I wonderful?"

    I think one of the single best ways we could discourage this crap would be to take anybody we catch doing this, and cane them on national TV. Show the piss running down their legs, show them crying for their mommies. Then follow up on them in prison - ask them how many times they've been the woman. Make sure they look as uncool as possible. That way, when the other would-be script kiddies see this, they won't think it's cool - they will think it's most uncool.

    (/me continues to whack hornets' nest known as Slashdot)
    There was a good reason for punishments like the stocks - it made everyone in the community see that breaking the rules was BAD, and that BAD things happened to those who broke the rules. Yes, it was cruel to the individuals in the stocks. News flash - IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE! It tended to make even the lowest miscreant reconsider his actions. I'm sorry if it offends you, but who better to suffer the consequences of negative actions but the moron who committed them!

    Look - if somebody makes an honest mistake, cut them some slack - I'm not for throwing somebody into the stocks because they missed a stop sign, or because they accidentally didn't secure their computer. But if somebody with malice aforethought commits an act against the community, I say "Nuke them 'till they glow, shoot them in the dark, and let $deity sort 'em out".
    • Re:P(r)eachy.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Interrobang ( 245315 ) on Monday May 27, 2002 @02:48PM (#3591573) Journal
      Hmm, where do I start citing studies that show the negative effects of negative reinforcement (read: punishment). Maybe

      Bonnie, R.J. (1985). The efficacy of law as a paternalistic instrument. Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, 29, 131-211.

      Wilde, G.J.S. (1981). A critical view of countermeasure development and evaluation. In L. Goldberg, Alcohol, drugs and traffic safety. Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell, pp. 1145-1159.

      In short, punishment generally causes people to be more anti-social, resentful, angry, vindictive, and prone to committing acts of sabotage. (Hundreds of years of increasingly punitive laws certainly haven't eliminated crime.)

      Pillorying someone never stopped anyone else from doing the same thing (ever read The Scarlet Letter?); it only drove them deeper underground.

      Now enough with this ridiculous "mild punishments don't work, so let's punish them more!" attitude. (That poison made me sick; I'm gonna eat more to see if it'll make me better!) In order to stop someone from behaving in a certain way, you have to stop the causes, not the symptoms. People in occupational safety and health have known about this one for years, and I'm not even going to get into the politics behind prisons...

      • Re:P(r)eachy.... (Score:3, Informative)

        by oasisbob ( 460665 )
        Hmm, where do I start citing studies that show the negative effects of negative reinforcement (read: punishment)

        A small point, but negative reinforcement is *not* the same thing as punishment. This is a very common misconception. Negative reinforcement is a concept relating to operant conditioning and learning theory.


        Positive reinforcement: If a mother gives her child candy for being good, this is positive reinforcement. By rewarding the child, she is reinforceing the child behaving well.

        Negative reinforcement: Your car is filthy and it drives you crazy. You decide to clean it out, and it feels great to have a clean car. Cleaning the car removed the adversive stimulus, making you more likely to clean it next time. This mechanism is theorized to be involved in many forms of drug addiction. (Life is difficult, drugs remove anxiety, more likely to use drugs later.)

        See the following pages for more details:
        What is Negative Reinforcement []
        Negative Reinforcement, Escape, and Advoidance Learning []

    • The point you completely miss is that criminals never intend to get caught.

      Yes, the good ole "it will never happen to me anyway...".

      So, even if you did cut off some felons balls and made them eat them, it would not stop the next burglar/murderer/script-kiddie. Show me one country where harsh punishments have helped diminishing crimes and... I will be very suprised.
  • This script kiddie could have been a cool hacker if he attacked spamhaus or other spam related companies instead. Now he is just a stupid teenager that annoyed us for an hour or two.
  • Despite how brainy the kid was with a computer, he got caught because he was a stupid kid.

    Guys who do stupid things usually get caught because they do other stupid things, like bragging about it. Case closed.

  • Currie yanked a few of the data packets from the stream and made a live copy to analyze. If you know what to look for, you can learn a lot from the raw data packets. If it's HTML, or Web traffic, you can tell that. And although it's more difficult, you can also tell if it's e-mail.

    If the FBI cannot tell the difference between a trace of e-mail and HTML how are they going to track real hackers and not just the really really stupid ones like Mafiaboy (who even had trouble typing the commands to launch the scripts)?
    • If the FBI cannot tell the difference between a trace of e-mail and HTML ...

      You see, that's the problem. There often isn't any difference between email and HTML.

      (Anyone want to place odds on Mafiaboy using LookOut Express?)
  • Did everyone else have a blacked out part about 7 paragraphs from the end? I just happened to hilite it and found out there was text behind it. Seems kinda unusual to me... but here's what it said:
    Mafiaboy preferred to dress in baggy pants, baggy jacket and Nike tennis shoes and he was often seen wearing a baseball cap in the backward punk style of many teenagers. In contrast to those who said he was a normal kid, other friends said he hung out with the tough kids at school, smoked cigarettes, got a lot of play with the girls and was generally a troublemaker.
    Dont really see any reason it was 'censored', but anyway.

    In terms of the script-kiddie charge people are making, it seems hard to tell from this article. They did say that he mistyped some commands, and received accounts from others, but they also said that the tool used to take over the boxes seemed to be written by him and contained his alias in the warning. I'd say he was a little bit of both, but then again what malicious hacker isnt?
  • Ok, I spend a lot of time on IRC, and used to use efnet (before I got fed up with the people like this kiddie and left). I somewhat knew MafiaBoy's little 'l33t irc group', and learned his modivation for this particular attack.

    Are you curious? Do you want to know WHY he did it? After all, maybe he had a good reason. Well, here it is:

    Someone else in his 'l33t irc group' said "hey I bet you can't take down yahoo". There you are, folks, the modivations of a script kiddie. These people will do anything if their peers dare them to. Truely deserving of the title 'kiddie' which they've been given.
    • Your post fits very well with today's Dilbert "Page-a-day" calendar. It has two lusers conversing with Dilbert...calling him a rebel since he came to work in a bath robe.

      Luser 1: You must be the new office rebel we heard about....Nice bathrobe.
      Luser 2: We're called rebels because we're easily manipulated into doing stupid things
      Luser 1: Give it up for us! Whoo Whoo!
      Dilbert: I date you to use branding irons on each other right now.
      Luser 2: Start the fire!
  • by puppetman ( 131489 ) on Monday May 27, 2002 @03:10PM (#3591698) Homepage
    After all, many firewalls are designed by highschool students who don't show up to class with books/homework, who hate math, can't type ("agents watched him in real time as he attempted hacks and had to retype commands three, four, or five times before he got them right"), and download their tools from the Internet rather than programming them themselves.

    This kid is a serious dimwit.
  • by 0xA ( 71424 ) on Monday May 27, 2002 @03:12PM (#3591707)
    As the technology bubble neared its bursting point in 2000, a 14-year-old Montrealer calling himself Mafiaboy disabled much of the Internet economy, alarming the White House and the financial markets.

    Okay, obviously this was big news but honestly not many people were exactly surprised where they? The tools that allowd this kid to pull this off had been identified already, the theory was pretty well established. Was knocking out Yahoo for 12 hours really a disruption of the "Internet Economy"?

    The article was interesting, a good read. There was really any surpising information in there, punk toublemaker kid out to cause shit, surprise. THe fact that the author went to great length trying to paint this as some super mega massive disruption or something was very anoying. Yes this was an important event because of the new level of media attention but it was not an especially shocking event in a technical sense. Nobody was surprised it happened.

  • Every time there is a virus attack the press rushes to report that the culprit likely "will never be found". Yet quite often, they are found.

    Anybody care to explain the discrepancy?
  • According to what I've learned on TV about "1337 h4x0r5", this kid got caught because he didn't have roller blades and a backpack full of satellite equipment. Pretty simple. If you're going to be a good hacker, you better get some roller blades.

  • by cr@ckwhore ( 165454 ) on Monday May 27, 2002 @04:13PM (#3592010) Homepage
    The FBI released a trace of Mafiaboy's hacking session... I've pasted it below

    C:/> hack

    Select hack type:

    1) Denial of Service
    2) Packet Trace
    3) Steal Accounts
    4) Get Root

    Selection: 1

    Enter Name: MafiaBoy

    Proceed with hack #1 by MafiaBoy? [y/n]: Y

    Hacking please wait
    ...................FBI trace detected!

    C:\> cd 1337


    Thats pretty much all of the trace that the FBI released. I wasn't sure about the syntax of the hack command, but I guess this helps.
    • Well, you know that his bots were M$ boxes. Rember this [] highly informative areticle? Nothing else has as many or uniformly available exploits as the pool of M$ junk that litters the world. The article would have done better to point that out instead of refering to "computers", then smearing "non comercial" software by inserting it into the unquoted ruling.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 27, 2002 @04:24PM (#3592054)

    One night, Currie and an FBI colleague saw a flurry of traffic going into and coming out of Mafiaboy's residence. Currie and the FBI agent immediately thought they had another denial-of-service attack on their hands. That was a possibility the agents had been facing all along. Figuring out how to conduct an investigation while at the same time trying to prevent another round of attacks was a big task.

    Yup, a DoS attack with enough punch to take down Yahoo. Originating from ... erm ... a dialup line. Hmmmm, sounds plausible to me.

    Ok, sarcasm over.

    The kind of tools s'kiddies use are made to be installed on compromised systems with a lot of bandwith. However, they can be triggered with very little traffic from the cracker (often via IRC since then the s'kiddie only has to make one connection.)

    Currie yanked a few of the data packets from the stream and made a live copy to analyze. If you know what to look for, you can learn a lot from the raw data packets. If it's HTML, or Web traffic, you can tell that. And although it's more difficult, you can also tell if it's e-mail. Ten minutes passed and Currie's anxiety grew. Then, all of a sudden, they noticed data packets containing messages such as "I'm going to kill ya," "Death God" and the like. Mafiaboy wasn't in the midst of another denial-of-service attack against major e-commerce Web sites: He was playing an online game called Starcraft,...

    They knew when he was surfing a web page because they could see the HTML tags? Although it was 'more difficult' they could tell if it was an e-mail? They thought game traffic might be a DoS?

    ffs! Have they not heard of port numbers?

    It would be the first thing I would check! Kinda narrows down the options doesn't it - knowing what kinda traffic you would expect it to be.

    It sounds from the article like they were literally just watching just raw body data from the packets.

    Perhaps they could do with a touch more expertise and some better tools? Then again, maybe it was due to misunderstanding and/or inaccuracy by the journalist - the writer doesn't sound like they quite know what they're talking about.


    • Yup, a DoS attack with enough punch to take down Yahoo. Originating from ... erm ... a dialup line. Hmmmm, sounds plausible to me.

      It's called a smurf attack actually and it is quite plausible (or at least, was before most routers began blocking spoofed ICMP broadcast echo packets).

      It's a pretty simple attack. Just spoof the source address of an ICMP echo packet to your target machine, and then broadcast it to a whole shit load of hosts. Each of the hosts will respond to the spoofed address and you will have N packets per packet you send where N is the number of hosts. Usually, one would pick a thousand or even ten thousand hosts and from a dialup, you could bring down an oc3 in a matter of minutes.

      Very few people were stupid enough to actually use this because 1) Most routers tracked these broadcast packets so you were likely to get caught if the receiver complained and 2) This was such a devistating attack that you were likely to do enough damage for someone to complain.

      It is not exploiting or "hacking" the host machines though. It surely isn't turning them into "zombies" either. It's a very lame exploit.

      BTW: For those interested, here is a link []. (Like I said before, this doesn't work any more and if you actually are dumb enough to use it, you will get caught very quickly).
      • Not exactly. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by FallLine ( 12211 )
        This is not quite true. The so-called smurf attack did lend substantial leverage, but nothing in the realm of thousand-fold leverage, never mind tens of thousands. For one, few people configured their networks this way (with >1k hosts on a single broadcast address) even before smurf attacks came into vogue. For another, empirically speaking, I can tell you that the best addresses that you could normally expect to find, even in its hay day, is in the realm of 500 or so, and many of these hosts would easily saturate their own upstream (e.g., T1) links, so you'd need a lot of other equally leveraged addresses to take advantage of it. In other words, it's unrealistic to say that a 56k modem or what have you could take down something like Yahoo using its own bandwidth to originate the attack. A T1 or T3 perhaps, but much more is just unrealistic.

        I also assert that a smurf attack is not "easy" to trace. It's actually very time consuming and troublesome, especially if the person does something like launch an attack from a machine that is set up, cleaned of all evidence, and abandoned (permanently) and uses a diverse list of broadcasts so that each broadcast address is only used a couple times. Almost every person that has gotten in trouble for such attacks has been detected by their own upstream usage (i.e., highly aberrantbehavior that invites further investigation by their own provider or upstream provider(s)) and/or a result of bragging about their exploits, ala mafiaboy and company. That said, it is a stupid and highly unoriginal attack (but just because it's stupid and foolish doesn't mean it can't be used to great effect) Anyone that launches an attack from their OWN modem or similar traceable equipment is both especially stupid and doomed.

        • This is not quite true. The so-called smurf attack did lend substantial leverage, but nothing in the realm of thousand-fold leverage, never mind tens of thousands.

          Ten thousands is not impossible. A thousand fold was not horribly uncommon either (although I guess much lower figures were more common).

          Still though, considering a 56k modem has an uplink of about 3k, using 500 hosts this translates to about 1.5MB which is enough to do some serious damage.

          I also assert that a smurf attack is not "easy" to trace.

          It is easy to trace via upstream usage as it is a horribly uncommon thing to do. After the fact though, I agree that it is quite difficult to trace. Of course, the people who are tracking most of this stuff are pretty dumb so it would be pretty easy to get away with if enough time was put into preparation.

          Of course, as you point out, it's not a very elegant attack.
  • How about resticting any story about raising children to people who actually are/have raising children.

    I have seen many "They should do that" posts from people that are 13-17 years old. The whole idea is to try and gleam knowledge from your elders. [And here is the eternal problem- young people ALWAYS know better than every elder; regardless if the elder went through the exact same thing]

    I know that both the eld and young both will ignore me, but I post this in the hope that maybe one, just one, person will actually think about the morality of the stories they convey to their children. Maybe stories of lore, where honor actually meant something? (For the young here, the word "honor" meant that what you said is what you would do, no matter what. If you said you would heal your mortal enemy, you would, and then send him home to his family.) Because "honor" is now second place to "winning".

    And our world shudders.
    • How about resticting any story about raising children to people who actually are/have raising children.

      So your argument is that people who are not undergoing an experience have no right to comment on that experience? I would tend to strongly disagree with this. If anything, typically individuals who are undergoing an experience become bias towards that experience and are unable to objectively view the situation.

      One would think that the individuals who's criticism would be most valued by people raising children are those without children as it would be the most objective.

      The whole idea is to try and gleam knowledge from your elders. [And here is the eternal problem- young people ALWAYS know better than every elder; regardless if the elder went through the exact same thing]

      Well, there is a bit of truth in your statement, but there's a less common problem that you point out in it. Age--and experience--does not automatically create wisdom. In fact, the arrogance typically associated with age tends to be it's greatest downfall. Just as a high school student is arrogant because they are now the oldest ones in school, middle aged folks tend to believe all-the-sudden, they've inherented the knowledge of the world. This just simply isn't true.

      Maybe stories of lore, where honor actually meant something?

      You describe honor as something that I should never wish to possess. If honor is keeping one's word at any expense, then it is fatally flawed. If I pledged my aid to a friend who, at the time, seemed honorable but then found out he was selling drugs, should I continue to aid him for the sake of honor? I think encouraging objectivity and rationalization is far more important than honor...
  • Having a front row seat to the whole ordeal, I can say that mafiaboy is only a small part of the overall story, which is far more interesting and would make for a much better book. I'd be glad to tell it in detail if someone offered a book deal.

    The real people involved are probably too incapable of doing it themselves, so I figure it'd be better to write it myself and give them a cut of whatever I make.

  • (I'm reposting this, as some nitwit moderated this as a troll. - This came up some years ago on a law-enforcement newsgroup):

    The RCMP officers mentionned in the article once busted a scammer operating from Canada; when they seized the computers and server, they brought them to the supplier to "fix them". Thing is, they swapped hard-disks, and the server hard-disk ended-up in a workstation. Needless to say, the tech was really surprised to see a server come up on that workstation...

    So, it only shows that the RCMP are royal-class fumblers and it's a miracle that their evidence was able to stand-up in court... (Or the scammers' defense was totally inept - or the court stupid).

Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern