'DerpTrolling' attacks on gaming sites get Utah man 27 months in prison

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A federal judge has sentenced a young hacker from Utah to 27 months in prison for carrying out distributed denial-of-service attacks against Sony Online Entertainment and other online gaming companies in 2013 and 2014.

The judge also ordered Austin Thompson, 23, to pay $95,000 for damages he caused to Sony Online Entertainment, which was sold and renamed Daybreak Game Company in 2015.

Thompson gained notoriety using the Twitter handle DerpTrolling to announce online attacks that downed game servers around the world for hours. Thompson pleaded guilty in November. He had faced up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. A review of court records did not reveal why the judge opted for a more lenient sentence on Tuesday.

On at least one occasion, Thompson reportedly used an open-source tool known as Low Orbit Ion Cannon. The tool started as an innocuous program for testing organizations’ networks, but has long been used for malicious purposes, including by hacktivist collective Anonymous.

Law enforcement has in recent years looked to crack down on DDoS attacks and the infrastructure they leverage. In another case last year, a 20-year-old Maryland man was sentenced to three months in prison for his role in the Lizard Squad attacks against video game sites.

“Denial-of-service attacks cost businesses and individuals millions of dollars annually,” U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer said in a statement announcing Thompson’s sentencing.

Thompson, who is currently free on bond, has until Aug. 23 to surrender to authorities. After 27 months in prison, he will have three years of supervised release.

An attorney for Thompson did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

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Austin Thompson, DDoS, DerpTrolling, legal, video games