Daybreak Games DDoS attacker gets two years in prison

(Image credit: Daybreak Game Company)

A fellow by the name of Austin Thompson will spend a little more than two years in prison for his role in DDoS attacks against multiple companies in 2013-14, including MMO operator Sony Online Entertainment, now known as Daybreak Game Company. Thompson pleaded guilty to the charge of "Damage to a Protected Computer" in November 2018, and was handed his sentence yesterday.

DDoS [distributed denial of service] attacks work by flooding their targets with network traffic, disrupting the normal flow of communications and ultimately forcing them offline. Its effectiveness lies in its simplicity, and in fact it can sometimes be difficult to tell the difference between a DDoS attack and an unexpected spike in legitimate traffic—just ask the FCC.

Thompson admitted to launching the attacks between December 2013 and January 2014 in the plea agreement, and to using the DerpTrolling Twitter account to announce upcoming attacks and share screens showing their results. He also acknowledged that his attacks cost at least $95,000 in damages, which he will have to pay in restitution to Daybreak.

"Denial-of-service attacks cost businesses and individuals millions of dollars annually," U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer said in a statement. "We are committed to prosecuting hackers who intentionally disrupt internet access."

The exact timeline is a bit mushy, but DerpTrolling predated the better-known Lizard Squad group that caused headaches through 2014-15, which not only launched DDoS attacks against SOE, Blizzard, and others, but also placed a bomb threat that diverted the plan of Daybreak's CEO at the time, John Smedley. (There was a lot of this sort of thing going on half a decade ago—or maybe it just seems like it, because it was a more innocent time.) 

DerpTrolling also claimed credit for a November 2014 DDoS attack against Blizzard's World of Warcraft servers, and a hack of PSN, Windows Live, and 2K Games servers, but Thompson's charges weren't related to those hacks: They took place nearly a year after his confessed activities.

Thompson is scheduled to begin serving his sentence on August 23.

Thanks, Polygon.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.