- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 20, 2000

A 15-year-old boy who used the Internet name "Mafiaboy" has been arrested in Canada in connection with an Internet attack in February that disrupted hundreds of high-profile World Wide Web sites.

The teen-ager, whose name was withheld, was charged specifically with two counts of computer mischief in a Feb. 8 cyber-raid that shut down several CNN sites, although he was identified by Canadian authorities as the "principal suspect" in the other computer raids.

More than 1,200 Web sites including the popular Yahoo, EBay, Amazon.com, Excite, E-Trade, ZDNet, Datek Online Brokerage Services and Buy.com Inc. were knocked off line for more than four hours.

The arrest came as part of an extensive joint investigation by the FBI and Canadian authorities.

The teen-ager, whom police in Montreal described as "a young man from a normal family who spent a lot of time in front of a computer," was arrested Saturday and formally charged in juvenile court during an appearance on Monday. Police seized computer equipment and software from his home, but declined to say whether they also had searched his school.

He was released pending a June court date under strict guidelines stating that he cannot use a computer except in school and under supervision by a teacher, cannot log onto the Internet or enter any store that sells computer equipment.

If convicted, the boy faces up to two years in prison. Adults convicted of the same crime face 10 years in prison.

The attack sparked a wave of concern throughout the federal government, including the Defense Department, which immediately ordered a check of more than 7,600 U.S. military computer systems to determine if any had been targeted as part of the vandalism wave. The military is the U.S. government's biggest user of computers.

Also, several large Internet companies sought to strengthen their computer systems by stepping up training sessions and installing advanced software filters to block delivery of suspicious electronic data.

President Clinton met with the nation's top computer security experts and technology executives to discuss the attacks.

The FBI assigned dozens of specially trained agents to investigate. Within days, the agents had identified three persons in the United States and Canada with whom they wanted to speak about the cyber-attack. Agents believed at the time all three had knowledge of the event.

Agents identified the three as young males believed to be hackers and known by the Web names of "Coolio," "Nachoman" and "Mafiaboy." That same month, "Mafiaboy" boasted in e-mail messages and Internet chat rooms that he was responsible for the attacks.

FBI agents also identified three computers as middlemen in the February attacks: a computer at the University of California at Santa Barbara; a router at Stanford University; and a home business computer in the Portland, Ore., area. Agents said dozens, even hundreds, of middlemen computers were used in the attacks.

Agents secured a computer in Oregon they believed to have been used in the attacks, saying its owner apparently was unaware it had been used as a launching pad.

The FBI then contacted the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, saying at least one Canadian Internet server was used to launch one of the attacks. Canadian authorities identified the teen-ager two weeks later.

FBI spokesman William Lynn said the damage caused by such international hacking could run into the millions of dollars.

FBI Director Louis J. Freeh said the arrest was the result of the combined efforts of technically skilled FBI and Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigators and Justice Department prosecutors, coupled with "substantial private-sector support and cooperation."

"The announcement today in Montreal represents more than success in this case," Mr. Freeh said. "Cyber-criminals are no longer constrained by borders, limited now only by the breadth of the Internet and the ingenuity of those using this technology."

Attorney General Janet Reno said she was pleased by the outcome of the investigation and praised U.S. and Canadian authorities for what she described as "extraordinary cooperation" that led to the arrest.

"Our investigation is continuing," Miss Reno said. "I think it is important that we look at what we do to let young people know that they are not going to be able to get away with something like this because of age."

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police issued a warning yesterday that computer hackers no longer would be immune from prosecution across international borders.

"It's paramount to educate all hackers to the fact that police have highly specialized units in the fight against computerized crime," said Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokesman Yves Roussel. "Hackers will be investigated, arrested and brought before the courts."

"There may be other arrests and accomplices arrested at a later time," and "Mafiaboy" himself may face more charges later, Mr. Roussel said.

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