Teen Hacker Who Sent Crippling Cyber Attack that Almost “Broke the Internet” Walks Free

Seth Nolan-Mcdonagh was only 16 when he sent a crippling cyber attack that almost “broke the internet,” which was a 400 gigabit DDoS attack against one of the largest spam tracking repositories online, yet will serve no time behind bars according to a judge’s decision as of last week.

Mcdonagh was just 13-years-old when he joined the legion of online hackers, digging himself into a deeper mess than he could have ever imagined.

Back in March 2013, one of the DDoS attacks targeting Spamhaus – a firm that provides accurate details on spammers latest tactics, including emails and IP’s – was unlike any other, prompting the label for one of the largest cyber attacks of all time. The attack on Spamhaus was so massive it actually slowed internet speeds to a crawl around the world.

During the ongoing ‘historical’ cyber attack, Spamhaus called on its good friend and anti-DDoS specialist, CloudFlare, to help successfully mitigate the ongoing issue. After several days of being on CloudFlare’s service, the company described it as one of the largest surprise DDoS attacks of all time.

During the attacks peak, it reached a massive 300 gigabits per second, making it one of the largest DDoS attacks of its time. Since that day we have seen catastrophic DDoS attacks scale up to 500 gigabits per second, and see no sign of them shrinking.

The steep incline in traffic caused serious problems for the London Internet Exchange, even slowing Internet traffic internationally. The attack was described before the court as having a “substantial” effect on the Internet.

Seth Nolan-Mcdonagh, now 18, sat before the body of the court last week, sitting beside his parents nervously awaiting his official hearing since the teen is 18 and his charges can be now be publicly discussed.

During court filings, it was revealed that during Mcdonagh’s original arrest in April 2013, authorities had seized more than £72,000 (roughly $111,715) from the 16-year-old’s bank account. Alongside finding source code on numerious electronic that had been abused in attacks sent towards Spamhaus. Authorities also seized around 1,000 credit card numbers from numerous German financial institutions that the teen was in possession of.

Seth Nolan-Mcdonagh was ordered by the judge to pay forward 240 hours of community service for his attack on the Internet. Mcdonagh had already pleaded guilty to five charges but details were unable to be released til the hacker turned 18.

The teen further confessed and was charged for being in possession of 924 indecent photos of children along with confessing to a charge of transferring criminal property.

In defense of his client, Ben Cooper, said that during the time of the attack, Mcdonagh had suffered from a serious mental illness and had withdrawn from his family, school and the rest of the world.

“Seth Nolan-Mcdonagh you fall to be sentenced for a serious crime committed by you between the beginning of 2011 and April 2013 when you were aged between 13 and 16 years,” Judge Jeffery Pedgen said before the teen in court.

“You are now 18 and a half years of age and you pleaded guilty to these offences in December last year and January this year just before your eighteenth birthday and therefore you fall to be sentenced as a youth.

‘I emphasise at the very outset two matters in particular in respect of your culpability.

‘Firstly your young age when you committed these offences and secondly that at the time you were suffering, as everybody agrees, form a very significant mental illness.”

The judge did not impose any additional sentencing or require additional rehabilitation after the judge said the progress the teen had made since his arrest was “remarkable” and that he had shown “complete and genuine remorse.”

“We fully appreciate the difficult predicament with which the sentencing judge was faced, and hope that anyone considering similar attacks will take heed of his remarks, that in any other circumstances such criminality would have resulted in a custodial sentence,” said Richard Cox, the Chief Information officer at Spamhaus.


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