DerpTroll: Despite the crime, will he even do time?

In 2013 and 2014 the cyber security industry was taken by storm after gaming super giants, including Sony, EA and Steam, were taken offline by DDoS attackers. The attackers went by the name of DerpTroll and they used Twitter to coordinate DDoS attacks and generally cause internet chaos.

Fast forward almost five years and we now know a lot more about DerpTroll. First of all, it appears that it was not a group, it was in fact a lone attacker, specifically Utah resident Austin Thompson. We also know that he has just pleaded guilty to the string of DDoS attacks targeting gaming companies in 2013 and 2014, which are estimated to have cost the organizations $95,000, and that he has entered into a deal with US law enforcement.

So, this begs the question, if law enforcement takes such a long time to prosecute cybercriminals, what else can organizations do to prevent their systems from coming under fire? And what exactly do ‘plea deals’ with law enforcement officials mean?

From crime to punishment

While it is great to see that law enforcement is pursuing cybercrime cases for such long periods of time, it is rather eye-opening that it has taken almost five years for justice to take place. And, it certainly shows that you can’t just sit back and do nothing with respect to DDoS protection and hope law enforcement will address this growing problem for you.

In order to tackle to growing threat of DDoS attacks, organizations must take a proactive stance instead.

The sophisticated state of the DDoS threat landscape, combined with the always-on expectations of today’s users, means relying on obscurity, believing you won’t get attacked, or using outdated technology, just isn’t sufficient.

This essentially means getting your protection in place beforehand, so that when you do come under attack you have the right tools to fight it off and your network will still hold steady. To keep up with the growing sophistication of attacks today, it's essential that organizations maintain comprehensive visibility across their networks to detect and block any potential DDoS incursions as they arise, in real-time.

Get out of jail free card

What is also interesting about this case, is the fact that Thompson appears to have entered into some sort of plea deal with law enforcement. While no details have been revealed yet, it could mean he will never face any significant punishment at all.

This was also recently demonstrated with the attackers behind the infamous Mirai botnet, which was responsible for one of the largest DDoS attacks in history. Despite the attackers being caught by law enforcement, they managed to avoid jail completely as they provided assistance to help capture other cybercriminals.

This begs the question, how much of a deterrent to cybercriminals is the risk of being caught? Particularly, if they know they can simply turn informers, then quite literally be handed a get out of jail free card.

Only time will tell what happens with Thompson, but if he is another of the lucky ones to be handed a get out of jail free card, it could mean he never faces any real punishment for his crimes, even despite the chaos he caused all those years ago. And, you certainly don’t get the sense that this will deter others from launching similar attacks in the future.

Sean Newman is VP Product Management, responsible for Corero’s product strategy. Sean brings over 25 years of experience in the security and networking industry, to guide Corero’s growing leadership in the real-time DDoS protection market. Prior to joining Corero, Sean’s previous roles include network security Global Product Manager for Cisco, who he joined as part of their acquisition of cyber-security vendor Sourcefire, where he was Security Evangelist and Field Product Manager for EMEA. Prior to that he was Senior Product Manager for endpoint and network security vendor Sophos, after having spent more than 12 years as an Engineer, Engineering Manager and then Senior Product Manager for network infrastructure manufacturer 3Com.