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Cyber attacker targeted important public service websites

A cyber criminal has admitted conducting a malicious campaign of attacks against childrens’ social services, social housing, and crime prevention websites.

Ian SullivanIan Sullivan, 51, of Bootle, Merseyside, carried out a series of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks in 2013. His targets included a range of business and public sector websites, including multinational banks, sites providing support for children going through adoption and divorce proceedings, crime reporting sites and social housing organisations.

Sullivan’s actions meant that servers were flooded with data, rendering them temporarily inaccessible for those trying to access the websites legitimately.

No sensitive information was gained from any of the sites, as DDoS is not a form of hacking and does not typically enable the attacker to access sytems. However, Sullivan’s actions resulted in over 300 websites being taken offline, leaving thousands of users unable to access important information.

Sullivan was apprehended after a joint operation by the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit and TITAN, the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit. Investigators linked the DDoS activity to a Twitter handle which had referenced the attacks.

Officers from the Police Central e-Crime Unit (PCeU), part of which was later subsumed into the National Cyber Crime Unit, arrested Sullivan on 29 July 2013. Analysis of his computer found software designed to take websites offline, and documentation linking him to other campaigns and activity carried out by hacktivist group anonymous.

Sullivan is due to be sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court on 1 May 2015.

Steven Pye, Senior Operations Manager at the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit, said:

“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.

“This multi-agency operation illustrates the commitment of the NCA and its partners to pursuing people who think they can criminally disrupt important public services or legitimate businesses.”


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