Teenager facing jail over global computer hacking business

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A teenager is facing jail for setting up a global computer hacking business which caused chaos on the world wide web and cost millions of pounds.

Adam Mudd was just 16 years old when he created his Titanium Stresser programme, which was used to carry out more than 1.7 million attacks on websites including Minecraft, Xbox Live, and gamers' communications tool TeamSpeak.

He raked in more than £386,000 worth of US dollars and Bitcoins from selling the programme to cyber criminals across the world.

Prosecutor Jonathan Polnay said the effect of his hacking programme was truly global, adding: "Where there are computers there are attacks, almost every major city in the world, with hot spots in France, Paris, around the UK."

The Old Bailey heard Mudd, who lived at home with his parents, had previously undiagnosed Asperger's Syndrome and was more interested in "status" in the online gaming community than the money.

Last week, the court heard how the defendant, now aged 20, carried out 594 of the distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks himself, against 181 IP addresses, between December 2013 and March 2015.

He has admitted security breaches against his college while he was studying computer science.

The attacks on West Herts College brought down the network and cost about £2,000 to investigate, but caused "incalculable" damage to productivity, the court heard.

On one occasion in 2014, the college hacking affected 70 more schools and colleges, including Cambridge University and the universities of Essex and East Anglia as well as local councils.

Mr Polnay said there were more than 112,000 registered users of Mudd's programme who hacked over 666,000 IP addresses. Of those, nearly 53,000 were in the UK.

Among the targets was the fantasy game RuneScape, which had 25,000 attacks.

It cost its owner company £6 million to try to defend itself against DDoS attacks with a revenue loss of £184,000.

The court heard Mudd created Titanium Stresser in September 2013 using a fake name and address in Manchester.

Mudd offered a variety of payment plans to his customers, who had to log in with a username and password.

He offered discounts for bulk purchases of up to 309.99 US dollars for 30,000 seconds over five years as well as a refer a friend scheme.

But Mr Polnay said: "This is a young man who lived at home. This is not a lavish lifestyle case.

"The motivation around this we tend to agree is about status. The money-making is by the by."

When he was arrested in March 2015, Mudd was in his bedroom on his computer which he refused to unlock before his father intervened.

In police interview, he admitted Titanium Stresser was for DDoS and explained how he avoided PayPal scrutiny as he money laundered his ill-gotten gains.

Mudd from Kings Langley, Hertfordshire, has pleaded guilty to one count of doing unauthorised acts with intent to impair the operation of computers, one count of making, supplying or offering to supply an article for use in an offence contrary to the Computer Misuse Act, and one count of concealing criminal property.

Mitigating, Ben Cooper said Mudd had been "sucked into" the cyber world of online gaming and become "lost in an alternate reality" after withdrawing from school due to bullying.

He said Mudd, who was expelled from college and now works as a kitchen porter, had been offline for two years, which was a form of punishment for any computer-obsessed teenager.

Mudd, who was described as "bright and high functioning", now understood what he did was wrong but at the time he lacked empathy due to his autistic condition, the court heard.

Mr Cooper said: "This was an unhappy period for Mr Mudd during which he suffered greatly.

"This is someone seeking friendship and status within the gaming community."

But Judge Michael Topolksi QC warned: "I have a duty to the public who are worried about this, threatened by this, damaged by this all the time... It's terrifying." He will sentence Mudd later.