British Hacker Jailed For Crashing Liberia’s Internet Following Cyber Attack

Written by Peter Pedroncelli

A British hacker who carried out a cyber attack that crashed the internet in Liberia has been jailed for two-and-a-half years in the U.K..

Daniel Kaye pleaded guilty to inadvertently disrupting Liberia’s internet in 2016 following a cyber attack on a telecommunications company in the country, according to the BBC.

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The 30-year-old is suspected of being involved in hundreds of acts of cybercrime across the globe, and has been described by the U.K.’s National Crime Agency as perhaps the most significant cybercriminal yet caught in the country.

Kaye was hired in 2015 by an employee of Cellcom, a mobile operator in Liberia, to launch a series of debilitating cyberattacks on rival operator Lonestar, a Liberian phone and internet provider which is part of the MTN Group, according to TheMetro.

There was no suggestion that Cellcom was aware of the situation.

The self-taught hacker was paid around $10,000 per month to disrupt Lonestar’s services between October 2016 and February 2017.

cyber attack
A cyber attack in 2016 disabled the internet in Liberia. Photo by Jefferson Santos on Unsplash

Kaye did this by creating a botnet, which unleashed what is known as a distributed denial of service attack by taking control of a huge number of Chinese-made Dahua webcams and ordering them to overwhelm Lonestar’s systems with file date requests.

A botnet is defined as a network of private computers infected with malicious software and controlled as a group without the owners’ knowledge, according to Norton.

One of these attacks was so powerful and affected so many devices that it temporarily disabled internet access across Liberia on a number of occasions between Nov. 3 and 4, the Financial Times reports.

Following allegations of his involvement in hacking attacks on three British banks, Lloyds, Barclays and Halifax, and admitting responsibility for attacks on Germany’s Deutsche Telekom that affected one million customers in November 2016, Kaye was given the two-and-a-half-year prison sentence.

Liberia cyber attack part of growing trend

The Africa Cyber Security Conference recently took place on Ivory Coast, with experts at the conference revealing that cyber attacks in Africa have increased by 20 to 30 percent over the last year, according to News24.

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While not often at the scale of what happened in Liberia, ransomware attacks have doubled since this time last year. These are attacks in which hackers use a malware virus to infiltrate a computer and encrypt data, holding the computer ‘ransom’ until payment is made for a coded key to unlock the encrypted data.

The Global Cybersecurity Index 2017, released by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), an agency of the United Nations, revealed that Mauritius and Egypt are the two African countries most committed to and best prepared for the fight against cyber attacks, according to AllAfrica.

Liberia ranks a lowly 22nd out of sub-Saharan Africa in this list, and 124th globally, compared to Mauritius’ first spot in Africa and sixth globally.

The internet-shutdown incident served to focus Liberia’s attention on the need to consider and invest in cybersecurity, but little has been done to better prepare the country and its online infrastructure for future attacks.