San Diego, California - Austin Thompson of Utah was sentenced in federal court Tuesday to 27 months in prison for carrying out a series of so-called denial-of-service computer hacking attacks against multiple victims between 2013 and 2014. The defendant was also ordered to pay $95,000 in restitution to one of the victims - Daybreak Games, formerly Sony Online Entertainment.
A denial-of-service (DoS) attack occurs when legitimate users are unable to access information systems, devices, or other network resources due to the actions of a malicious cyber threat actor. Essentially the hacker floods the targeted host or network with traffic until the target cannot respond or simply crashes, preventing access for legitimate purposes.
According to the plea agreement, between December 2013 and January 2014, Thompson’s attacks, which flooded his victims’ servers with enough internet traffic to take them offline, were directed mainly at online gaming companies and servers, including then San Diego-based Sony Online Entertainment. Thompson typically used the Twitter account @DerpTrolling to announce that an attack was imminent and then posted “scalps” (screenshots or other photos showing that victims’ servers had been taken down) after the attack. The attacks took down game servers and related computers around the world, often for hours at a time. According to the plea agreement, Thompson’s actions caused at least $95,000 in damages.
The defendant, who is free on bond, was ordered to surrender to authorities on August 23 to begin his sentence.
“Denial-of-service attacks cost businesses and individuals millions of dollars annually,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. “We are committed to prosecuting hackers who intentionally disrupt internet access.” Brewer praised Assistant U.S. Attorney John Parmley and the FBI’s San Diego Field Office for their hard work on this case.