A middle-aged Briton has admitted running a series of debilitating denial of service attacks against social services, social housing and crime prevention websites.
Ian Sullivan, 51, of Bootle, Merseyside, also admitted responsibility for a series of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks against private sector firms, including multinational banks, during 2013.
In attacking banks Sullivan appears to have thrown his lot in with rag tag hacktivist collective Anonymous. Other systems blitzed by Sullivan included sites providing support for children going through adoption and divorce proceedings.
These are not sites typical of Anonymous' usual targets and suggest an unexplained personal grudge.
Sullivan’s actions rendered targeted websites inaccessible to legitimate servers. His actions resulted in over 300 websites being taken offline, leaving thousands of users unable to access services. Fortunately no actual hacking was involved and no sensitive information was accessed.
Sullivan was caught after a joint operation by the National Crime Agency’s National Cyber Crime Unit and TITAN, the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit. Police linked the DDoS activity to a Twitter handle which referenced the attacks. Sullivan was arrested in July 2013 during a police raid that led to the seizure of his computer.
Subsequent forensic analysis found software designed to take websites offline and documentation linking him to other campaigns and activity carried out by Anonymous.
Sullivan – who admitted responsibility for the attacks – will be sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court on 1 May 2015.
Steven Pye, senior operations manager at the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit, commented: “Many DDoS attacks are little more than a temporary inconvenience but in this case Sullivan’s actions are likely to have deprived vulnerable people of access to important information, ranging from where to get support on family breakup, to reporting crime anonymously.” ®