The Montreal Gazette
Friday, January 19, 2001

Computer hacker known as Mafiaboy enters guilty plea on 56 charges

by Conway Daly

The computer hacker known as Mafiaboy, pleaded guilty on Thursday to 56 charges of mischief.
MONTREAL (CP) -- The computer hacker known as Mafiaboy, who crippled several major Internet sites including CNN, pleaded guilty on Thursday to 56 charges including mischief and violating bail conditions. The 16-year-old Montrealer's pleas came as his trial was to begin on 66 charges relating to attacks last February on several major Web sites as well as security breaches of other sites at such institutions as Yale and Harvard universities.

The teen, who cannot be identified under provisions of the Young Offenders Act, made no statement beyond his pleas. The other charges against him were withdrawn.

Mafiaboy's father told reporters that his son "wants it to be all over" and the prosecution has had an effect.

"I think he's learned a big lesson and he'll put it to good use", said the parent, who spoke briefly and reluctantly after watching the court proceedings. "I don't like the attention."

He said Mafiaboy, who now has a fulltime job, intends to pursue a career in computers but it won't be as a hacker.

"It will be on the other side -- to do good."

The father said his home had five computers and three of them were in Mafiaboy's room but "they weren't all complete. He used to swap parts around."

Some of Mafiaboy's computer attacks were done at night, after the rest of the house had gone to bed, he said.

"He plays sports and does other things too. He's not fixated on computers to the point where it would damage his health."

Mafiaboy is free on bail and is liable to a sentence of up to two years in jail.

Crown prosecutor Louis Miville-Deschenes told reporters that wiretapped phone conversations and computer intercepts proved Mafiaboy's role "beyond a reasonable doubt".

"He bragged that the FBI was not even closing in and would never arrest him. He made it clear through his own conversations that he was responsible for the attacks."

Judge Gilles Ouellet of Quebec youth court set April 17 and 18 for pre-sentence arguments on the penalty.

Miville-Deschenes said the sentence should fit the crimes and circumstances and "send a message to other people who would be tempted to do the same type of crime".

The trial had been expected to last three to six months, with many witnesses and highly technical testimony.

Miville-Deschenes said Mafiaboy and his defence counsel realized how much evidence the Crown had gathered for its case and "found it pointless to go through a trial".

The boy was first arrested on two mischief charges last April after somebody calling themselves Mafiaboy crippled CNN's Web site last February.

Miville-Deschenes said he didn't know whether the original damage estimate of $1.7 billion US was accurate.

"Some of those damages are intangible, like stock market plunges. It might be hard to come to a definite figure."

Defence counsel Yan Romanowski dismissed the $1.7 billion US figure as "ludicrous" and told reporters that he plans to challenge the amount when it's raised in court.

RCMP Cpl. Marc Gosselin, a specialist in computer crime investigations, said the $1.7 billion US figure was put out by the Americans but he thought it was likely inflated.

He said the FBI alerted the RCMP last Feb. 14 and two days later, the Mounties identified the Montreal home where the computer attacks originated and Mafiaboy lived.

Gosselin said Mafiaboy launched his assaults with a computer tool that he got from another hacker and attacked sites in Canada, the United States, Denmark, and Korea.

Ten counts of mischief relate to denial-of-service attacks on the Web sites, including Yahoo, Amazon.com, e-Bay, and Dell.com. The sites were bombarded with thousands of simultaneous messages, which prevented legitimate users from accessing them.

The remaining charges deal with hacking into computers, many of them located at American universities such as Harvard and Yale.

The high-profile Mafiaboy case raised concerns both in the United States and Canada about Internet security.

Copyright © 2001 by The Canadian Press. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.