Seth Nolan-Mcdonagh, the British teenage cyber geek known in the cyber world as Narko, was just 13 when he joined a network of online hackers who later brought websites of global institutions including the BBC, to their knees using distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.
In March 2013, hackers targeted Spamhaus, a firm that provides details of spammers to email and network providers. The attack on this anti-junk mail slowed the Internet around the world. Spamhaus called on Cloudflare, a service that blocks online assaults, for support, which led to the largest known DDoS attack by hackers at the time. At its peak, the attack was guiding 300 GB of traffic every second to Spamhaus computers.
After his arrest in April 2013, more than £70,000 were discovered in Mcdonagh’s bank account. Cops found the source code used in the attacks on devices in his London home. He also had in his possession 1,000 credit card numbers.
Nolan-Mcdonagh pleaded guilty to two counts of unauthorized modification of computer material and one count of possessing articles for use in fraud. He also admitted a charge of transferring criminal property and a charge of possession of 924 indecent photos of children.
“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. 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.
“Your persistent distributed denial-of-service attacking was so sophisticated and unprecedented in scope they had a worldwide effect. As the Times newspaper said at the time they almost broke the internet. Many of those were attacked for financial gain and plain it is to me that you received very significant payments for those attacks. It is impossible to quantify those payments at the moment but suffice for me to note you received over £70,000 in your bank accounts between the ages 13 and 16 years.
“You were in effect a hired DDOS attacker and in effect many billions of domain users and I conclude that you had an instrumental and leading role in the technicalities of those attacks. You caused hundreds of thousands of pounds of loss to the various entities as they sought to mitigate the distributed denials-of-service.
“Against these very grave matters it is right to emphasise again that you were significantly mentally unwell during that period. You had withdrawn from schooling where you had been bullied and had been hospitalised and most importantly, in my judgement, you greatly withdrew completely from your family and friends. You had lost touch with the real world and even your family were unable to help you in the depths of your illness. Of course these offences normally attract a custodial sentence but because of these matters I have emphasised I am not of the view that custody is appropriate in your case,” Judge Jeffrey Pegden ruled.
Nolan-Mcdonagh’s rehabilitation after his arrest was “remarkable”, that he had shown “complete and genuine remorse”, and that there was almost “no risk of further harm or re-offending”, Pegden observed allowing Narko to walk free.
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