Julius Kivimäki goes by a variety of names. Sometimes he calls himself “Ryan”, sometimes “Zeekill”. But most recently he has updated his Twitter profile to describe himself as the “untouchable hacker god”.
Because although the Finnish teenager has just been found guilty of a staggering 50,700 “instances of aggravated computer break-ins” (hacks to you and me), he has managed to escape a prison sentence.
Instead, Judge Wilhelm Norrmann of the District Court of Espoo has sentenced 17-year-old Kivimäki to a two-year suspended sentence, and ordered him to hand over €6,588 worth of property obtained through his criminal activities and ordered that his internet use be monitored.
Julius Kivimäki first came to prominence when the Lizard Squad hacking gang knocked the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live offline over Christmas 2014. Kivimäki was unafraid of showing his face when interviewed by Sky News about the attacks under the pseudonym of “Ryan”.
Once breached, Kivimäki would scour account databases to steal billing and payment card data, and plant malware to create a botnet that allowed him to launch distributed denial-of-service attacks.
In addition, prosecutors told the court that Kivimäki bought luxury goods with stolen credit cards, and even participated in a money-laundering scheme that saw him fund a vacation to Mexico.
Source: Sky News
Is Julius Kivimäki really an untouchable hacker god?
Of course not. The FBI and Finnish authorities combined their forces to identify and bring him to justice. The untouchable hacker had his collar felt, and he spent approximately a month incarcerated while the case was investigated. He may have escaped a prison sentence, but chances are that the authorities would have been less sympathetic if he had been over 18 years of age at the time of his offences.
Indeed, a court statement noted that Kivimäki had been 15 and 16 years old at the time he committed computer crimes in 2012 and 2013:
“[The verdict] took into account the young age of the defendant at the time, his capacity to understand the harmfulness of the crimes, and the fact that he had been imprisoned for about a month during the pre-trial investigation.”
Finland clearly considers imprisonment, especially for youngsters, as a last resort – and believes that rehabilitation is always a better route when dealing with criminals. I’m not opposed to that, and I do see that a prison sentence is something that could seriously mess up a young person’s life.
But there is a danger that other young hackers might see the headlines of Kivimäki escaping jail, and his cocky online behaviour as a green light for their own criminal activity.
Lizard Squad itself commented on Kivimäki’s freedom by posting a video of MC Hammer’s hit song, “U Can’t Touch This”.
For all his bravado online, Julius Kivimäki needs to be careful that he doesn’t blot his copy book again as the court is likely to be less than sympathetic if he offends again. It’s hard to imagine that a court would look kindly on being made fools of by an unrepentant hacker.
I hope, for his sake and that of his family, that Julius Kivimäki grows up quickly and stops acting like an idiot. But I don’t hold much hope.
How do you think teenage hackers should be punished? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.