Michael Calce (born 1986, also known as MafiaBoy) was a high school student from Île Bizard, Quebec, who launched a series of highly publicized denial-of-service attacks in February 2000 against large commercial websites, including Yahoo!, Fifa.com, Amazon.com, Dell, Inc., E*TRADE, eBay, and CNN. He also launched a series of failed simultaneous attacks against nine of the thirteen root name servers.[page needed]
Calce was born in the West Island area of Montreal, Quebec. When he was five, his parents separated and he lived with his mother after she had won a lengthy battle for primary custody.[page needed] Every second weekend he would stay at his father's condo in Montreal proper. He felt isolated from his friends back home and troubled by the separation of his parents, so his father purchased him his own computer at the age of six. It instantly had a hold on him: "I can remember sitting and listening to it beep, gurgle and churn as it processed commands. I remember how the screen lit up in front of my face. There was something intoxicating about the idea of dictating everything the computer did, down to the smallest of functions. The computer gave me, a six-year-old, a sense of control and command. Nothing else in my world operated that way."[page needed]
On February 7, 2000, Calce targeted Yahoo! with a project he named Rivolta, meaning "riot" in Italian.[page needed] Rivolta was a denial-of-service attack in which servers become overloaded with different types of communications to the point where they become unresponsive to commands. At the time, Yahoo! was a multibillion-dollar web company and the top search engine. Mafiaboy's Rivolta managed to shut down Yahoo! for almost an hour. Calce's goal was, according to him, to establish dominance for himself and TNT, his cybergroup, in the cyberworld.[page needed] Buy.com was shut down in response. Calce responded to this in turn by bringing down eBay, CNN, and Amazon via DDoS over the next week. Calce attempted but was unsuccessful in bringing down Dell during this DDoS attack.
In a 2011 interview, Calce claimed that the attacks had been launched unwittingly, after inputting known addresses in a security tool he had downloaded from a repository on the now defunct file-sharing platform Hotline, developed by Hotline Communications. Calce would then have left for school, forgetting the application which continued the attacks during most of the day. Upon coming home Calce says that he found his computer crashed, and restarted it unaware of what had gone on during the day. Calce claimed when he overheard the news and recognized the companies mentioned being those he had inputted earlier in the day, that he had "started to understand what might have happened".
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police first noticed Calce when he started claiming in IRC chatrooms that he was responsible for the attacks. He became the chief suspect when he claimed to have brought down Dell's website, an attack that had not been publicized at that time. Information on the source of the attacks was initially discovered and reported to the press by Michael Lyle, chief technology officer of Recourse Technologies.
Calce initially denied responsibility but later pleaded guilty to most of the charges brought against him. His lawyer insisted the child had only run unsupervised tests to help design an improved firewall, whereas trial records indicated the youth showed no remorse and had expressed a desire to move to Italy for its lax computer crime laws. The Montreal Youth Court sentenced him on September 12, 2001 to eight months of "open custody," one year of probation, restricted use of the Internet, and a small fine.
Matthew Kovar, a senior analyst at the market research firm Yankee Group, generated some publicity when he told reporters the attacks caused 1.2 billion USD in global economic damages. Media outlets would later attribute a then-1.45:1 conversion value of 1.7 billion CAD to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Computer security experts now often cite the larger figure (sometimes incorrectly declaring it in U.S. dollars), but a published report says the trial prosecutor gave the court a figure of roughly $7.5 million.
While testifying at a hearing before members of the United States Congress, computer expert Winn Schwartau said that "Government and commercial computer systems are so poorly protected today they can essentially be considered defenseless - an Electronic Pearl Harbor waiting to happen." The fact that the largest website in the world could be rendered inaccessible by a 15-year-old created widespread concern. By this time, the internet had already become an integral part of the North American economy. Consumers lost confidence in online business and the American economy suffered a minor blow as a result. Former CIA agent Craig Guent credits Mafiaboy for the significant increase in online security that took place over the decade.
In 2014, Calce appeared on the twelfth episode of the Criminal podcast.
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