Tuesday, April 12th, 2016
Grant Manser was only 16 years old when he first set up damaging software which helped cyber-hackers crash over 224,000 websites around the world. Working from the comfort of his Midland home, the young teen designed the “stresser” program and sold it to worldwide customers on the infamous hidden internet ‘Dark Web’ only used for criminal purposes for as little as £4.99.
Extra: “Stresser” programs, aka. DOS (“Denial of Service”) programs work by flooding websites, servers and email addresses with so much data they could not cope, causing them to temporarily crash.
Grant Manser leaving Birmingham Crown Court (Source: Daily Mail)
The British teenager of Kidderminster, a town near Birmingham in the UK, allegedly sold website-crashing software to around 4,000 customers who used it to carry out attacks on 224,548 targets from around the world. Among the victims included businesses, schools, colleges and government departments from Poland, France, other EU countries, the United States and the Netherlands, to name a few. A victim even included Harrogate And Hull College which suffered its entire computer network crash for 14 hours after unhappy students bought one of Manser’s tools to launch on the institutions’ websites following displeasure at being kept behind for detention.
Harrogate and Hull College (Source: Daily Mail)
Indeed, it was these DOS attacks which led Manser’s operations to be discovered as local law enforcements managed to track down the various attacks to Manser’s tools, and eventually managed to detect his real identity.
Officers from the Regional Cyber Crime Unit arrested the teen at his family home and seized his computer equipment, which was found to contain four DOS systems capable of launching multi-level DOS attacks, called Dejabooter, Vexstresser, netspoof and Refinedstresser. These DOS programs were sold on the ‘Dark Web’ at prices ranging from £4.99 to £20.
Manser’s family home (Source: Daily Mail)
Developing the attacks
Before Manser was convicted, the Birmingham Crown Court heard Manser’s scheme had been operating over a four-year period between January 2012 and November 2014. Manser, now aged 20, was said to have had 12,800 registered users and, of these, just under 4,000 had bought DOS packages. They had then carried out 603,499 attacks on 224,548 targets. All in all, the court heard Manser had a successful turnover of £50,000 during the period of his operations, of which he accepted via PayPal payments. By the time he was arrested, Manser’s business was doing so well he had started to advertise for support staff.
During his police interviews, the teenager stated that he initially got the idea for the “stresser” programs and to create and sell his own DOS tools after working for another hacker in the United States, which opened his eyes to the potential cash he could make from such schemes.
The judge, Nicholas Cole, went easy on Manser because his defending lawyer, Jamie Baxter, argued that Manser did not partake in any attacks, but rather only did it purely for monetary gains, which he mostly saved. Manser had not blown away his £50,000 extravagantly, choosing instead to spend it updating his computer equipment and devoting it to his motorbike which was his hobby. Manser’s tool did not give users access to closed computer systems, and was not designed to compromise private data.
Baxter, defending his client, stated: “He is not a hacker. The system doesn’t take or hack any information from the websites being attacked.” He added: “He was only 16 when he started to do this and it was his immaturity and naivety which led him to commit these offences.”
Manser was convicted in Birmingham Crown Court after pleading guilty to six charges under the Computer Misuse Act and four under the Serious Crime Act. His sentence by Judge Cole was two years in juvenile detention suspended for 18 months with the requirement to perform 100 hours unpaid work and also pay £800 in damages costs to cover his conviction of all 10 crimes.
Yet, Manser was spared a jail sentence from the judge after the judge acknowledged that he only did it for financial gains and described the teen as “young and naive”. In addition, the judge was seemingly impressed by the fact that Manser’s DOS tools were built containing secret safeguards in its software which prevented the tool from being exploited to attack ‘blacklist’ organisations such as healthcare organisations, banks, the police or the FBI.
 The Sun
 Birmingham Mail
 Tech Worm