Finnish teen convicted of over 50,000 hacks avoids jail


Julius Kivimki, a 17-year-old from Espoo, Finland, has managed to avoid going to jail - for now at least - despite having been convicted of hacking into 50,700 computers.

The teen, who has claimed affiliation with the cyber crime collective Lizard Squad, was handed a two-year suspended prison sentence for crimes including operating a huge botnet, theft of credit card details and hijacking emails. He was also ordered to hand over 4,725 worth of property obtained illegally and had his PC confiscated.

Explaining why he was not ordering an immediate custodial sentence, judge Wilhelm Norrmann pointed out that Kivimki had only been 15 and 16 when he committed the crimes in 2012 and 2013.

A statement from the court said the verdict "took into account the young age of the defendent at the time, his capacity to understand the harmfulness of the crimes, and the fact he had been imprisoned for about a month during the pre-trial investigation".

Many people, however, have expressed dissatisfaction at the sentence, claiming it is too leniant.

Security researcher Brian Krebs called it "a win for internet trolls and teenage cyber criminals everywhere".

"The danger in a decision such as this is that it emboldens young malicious hackers by reinforcing the already popular notion that there are no consequences for cyber crimes committed by individuals under the age of 18," said Krebs.

Krebs also spoke to 20-year-old white hat hacker Blair Strater, who claims to have been a victim of Kivimki's, who called the teen a "dangerous sociopath".

"We live in a brave new world where somebody as young as 13 can ... double-click their mouse on a script they grabbed off of HackForums and cause thousands of dollars worth of damage to an arbitrary target, from the comfort and safety of their bedroom. And these individuals, Mr. Kivimaki included, go into this with the complete knowledge that what they are doing is wrong and unlawful, and that none of that matters because they're untouchable as long as they are under 18. They plan to have 5 years of good fun, thumbing their nose at the system, and coming out the other side unscathed," Strater said.

Alan Woodward, a consultant for Europol on matters of cybercrime, told the BBC: "There is a question as to whether such sentences will act as a deterrent to other hackers."

"It is not necessarily the place of the courts to factor in deterrence in their sentences. However, if I were another hacking group, was not that bothered about just having something on my record, and saw someone attract a suspended sentence for over 50,000 hacks, some of which caused significant damage, I don't think it would cause me much concern," he said.

Jane McCallion
Deputy Editor

Jane McCallion is ITPro's deputy editor, specializing in cloud computing, cyber security, data centers and enterprise IT infrastructure. Before becoming Deputy Editor, she held the role of Features Editor, managing a pool of freelance and internal writers, while continuing to specialise in enterprise IT infrastructure, and business strategy.

Prior to joining ITPro, Jane was a freelance business journalist writing as both Jane McCallion and Jane Bordenave for titles such as European CEO, World Finance, and Business Excellence Magazine.