This story was written by Keith Dawson for the Industry Standard's Media Grok email newsletter. It is archived here for informational purposes only because The Standard's site is no more. This material is Copyright 1999-2001 by Standard Media.

Script Kiddie Cops a Plea

Jan 19 2001 12:00 AM PST

Mafiaboy« gets his day in court, and what he did was maybe not all that impressive.

A 16-year-old who styles himself "Mafiaboy" pleaded guilty in a Canadian courtroom to 56 charges of mischief. Or 55, or 57, depending on which news account you read. The plea bargain prevented a trial in the case that began last February with denial-of-service attacks against a number of large, U.S.-based Web operations including Yahoo, CNN and Dell. The youth was not named because of his age.

Most outlets called Mafiaboy a "hacker" in headlines and body copy. The geek press gave the story a pass, perhaps acknowledging that what the kid had done was not all that impressive. Wired's Reuters coverage stood alone in pointing out that Mafiaboy is no "hacker" - and the outlet underscored the point in its teaser copy, referring to Mafiaboy not as a "hacker" but as a "script kiddie." Reuters quoted Mark Rasch, VP of a Virginia-based computer security company: "The case demonstrates ... that the entire Internet is vulnerable to the machinations of a 15-year-old kid," but that law enforcement officials are capable of tracking down those who launch denial of service attacks.

While many outlets ran unbylined wire stories that covered the basic facts in the case, the LA Times went with a signed AP piece by Phil Couvrette with considerably more detail, including an interview with the prosecutor and details of U.S.-Canada cooperation in the investigation.

The New York Times' coverage, by James Brooke, painted a good picture of the teenager's frame of mind and circumstances: "In court he wore a suit, a tie and a neatly trimmed goatee and said little. In contrast to the subdued appearance, the young man had recently spent three weeks in jail for bail violations, including verbally abusing teachers. ... The teenager has not publicly apologized or cooperated with the investigation."

Christopher Chipello, writing for the Wall Street Journal, offered details of the investigation leading to Mafiaboy's arrest, including wiretaps that caught the kid bragging in a chat room that he had tossed an incriminating hard drive in the river.

Hacker 'Mafiaboy' Pleads Guilty (AP)
USA Today

Mafiaboy's Pre-Trial Guilty Plea (Reuters)
Wired News

Mafiaboy Pleads Guilty in Hacker Case (Bloomberg)

Computer Hacker Enters Guilty Plea
Los Angeles Times

Montreal Hacker, 16, Pleads Guilty to 56 Counts of Vandalism
New York Times
(Registration required.)

Mafiaboy Admits to Most Charges Related to Attacks on Web Sites
Wall Street Journal
(Paid subscription required.)

Printing, distribution, and use of this material is governed by your Subscription Agreement and copyright laws.
For information about subscribing, go to