Briton who knocked an entire country offline with cyber attack jailed

Jamie Johnson
Daniel Kaye  was sentenced to 32 months in prison after admitting organizing the denial of service attacks that affected people in Liberia - Bloomberg

A British self-taught hacker who knocked an entire country offline has been jailed.

Daniel Kaye, 30, of Egham, Surrey, masterminded a cyber attack on a telecommunications company in Liberia, being paid $30,000 by a rival company to disrupt the systems of mobile phone company Lonestar between October 2016 and February 2017.

He created a botnet called Mirai #14 whose purpose was to trigger a distributed denial of service (DDoS) assault on the business's computer network, causing it to spend 600,000 US dollars (£467,000) in remedial action.

Kaye pleaded guilty to two offences under the Computer Misuse Act and to one charge of possessing criminal property and was sentenced at Blackfriars Crown Court on Friday to a total of 32 months in prison.

The court heard how the virus turned thousands of internet-connected devices into "zombies" that overwhelmed Lonestar's network and costed it tens of millions of US dollars.

Liberia has recently elected former footballer George Weah as its president Credit: REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon 

Kaye was extradited back to Britain in August 2017 under a European Arrest Warrant following an investigation involving the National Crime Agency's (NCA) German counterpart, the Bundeskriminalamt (BKA).

Sentencing, Judge Alexander Hugh Milne QC said Kaye had pursued a "large scale unlawful" attack on Lonestar's computer systems.

"You were paid by a rival company to disrupt and undermine the legitimate business of Lonestar," he said.

He said that Kaye's actions were a "cynical and financially-driven attack upon a legitimate business enterprise".

Kaye, who was supported in court by his girlfriend, could be seen weeping as the sentence was delivered.

Prosecutor Robin Sellers told the court how Kaye made a rolling arrangement with a third party who worked for the company Cellcom under which he was paid 30,000 US dollars (£23,000) between late 2016 and early 2017.

The self-taught hacker adapted an existing virus to create a botnet variant called Mirai #14 whose purpose was to trigger DDoS assaults on internet networks.

Daniel Kaye, right, is a self-taught hacker Credit: Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

The court heard that the DDoS attack involved the Mirai code searching out devices that connected to the internet to turn them into "zombies".

"Hundreds of thousands of internet-ready devices are in effect taken away from their usual use," Mr Sellers added.

The devices became a "conduit for the attack upon the Lonestar servers" with the effect of "overwhelming it with the sheer number of connections".

Mr Sellers said Lonestar's servers collapsed and "couldn't operate properly".

The court heard that the company estimated its revenue dipped from 84 million US dollars (£65.3 million) to 17 million US dollars (£13.2 million) between October 2016 and February 2017.

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