Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks are harmless, according to Newcastle man Matthew George, who was charged for his role in the Anonymous group's bid to crash federal government websites last year.
The Anonymous DDoS campaign poster (Screenshot by Ben Grubb/ZDNet Australia)
George was one of possibly hundreds of Australians under the Anonymous banner who participated in DDoS protest attacks against the Australian Parliament House and Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy websites. Melbourne resident Steve Slayo was the only other user charged for participating in the attacks.
For his role, George faced 10 years imprisonment for "causing unauthorised impairment of electronic communication to or from a Commonwealth computer", but received a $550 fine with a recorded conviction. Federal police raided George's home in June last year and he faced court in October.
Speaking to ZDNet Australia, George rebuked comments by the Australian Federal Police that sentences for DDoS attacks are too weak, instead saying that the act does not cause permanent damage.
"DDoS service attacks are harmless. Most hosting companies have DDoS attack precautions in place and there is no long-term damage caused to any servers or websites," George said.
"It is far different to hacking in and defacing or rooting a server [because] when the DDoS attack is stopped everything goes back to normal as if nothing had ever happened."
"You can't compare DDoS attacks to child porn, hacking or writing a virus — it's like comparing apples with oranges.
"As far as saying that the sentence was too weak, maybe they should pass that on to the district public prosecutors as [it] agreed that the sentence was fair in my case."
AFP High Tech Collection and Capability manager Grant Edwards told a security conference this month that the courts are unwilling to issue tougher sentences for DDoS attacks because "they don't understand the threat".
Edwards cited the penalties handed to George and Slayo, who received a good behaviour order, as examples of soft sentences.
George said the criminal conviction may make it harder for him to gain employment opportunities.
He said he believes most participants in the DDoS attacks were from Australia. The AFP has refused to confirm if it is investigating other users for their role in the attacks. It had not received requests by the likes of MasterCard and Visa, which were hit with DDoS attacks for blocking funds to whistleblower website Wikileaks.
A ZDNet global poll found that readers do not support DDoS attacks on companies that cut off Wikileaks.