Imagine getting phone calls every hour, all day and night, threatening to kill you and burn your house down.
Imagine strangers from all parts of the world calling your phone and visiting your house after they heard you were giving away free Tesla cars.
Imagine getting endless food deliveries you didn’t order. Imagine police cars pulling into your driveway late at night because someone called 9/11 and reported an attempted murder.
Imagine losing your job because someone hacked your social media accounts and wrote negative, offensive, hateful things.
These aren’t just possibilities; these things actually happened to one family — the Strater family, in Oswego, Illinois — allegedly because of a 18-year-old hacker from Finland named Julius Kivimaki.
This week, The Daily Dot published a special report on Kivimaki and his alleged interactions with the Strater family. And it illuminates a lot of important topics, including how and why people get hacked and the degree to which getting hacked can ruin the lives of you and your family.
In the case of the Strater family, Kivimaki appears to have been instigated by the family’s 20-year-old son Blair “r000t” Strater, a convicted hacker in his own right, who allegedly kicked Kivimaki out of an online chatroom years ago and was generally hostile towards the Finnish teen, reportedly threatening to release the names and personal information of some of Kivimaki’s friends, according to The Daily Dot. Strater also openly antagonizes Kivimaki in several posts on his personal blog.
So, this is far from a one-sided affair. Strater continues to provoke Kivimaki, both on his blog and via Twitter, and Kivimaki repays in kind with pranks and hacks, The Daily Dot reports.
There’s an important parenting lesson here — be careful who you let your kids talk to online — but it doesn’t diminish the severity of these pranks. The family is regularly affected by the pranks, many of which involve calling the police to report fake hostage situations, murders, etc.
Kivimaki isn’t just your ordinary hacker — he’s spent much of his young life hacking. According to the BBC, Kivimaki was convicted for using stolen credit cards to buy himself luxury items and participated in a money-laundering scheme that funded a trip to Mexico.
Kivimaki also allegedly helped Lizard Squad, a young international group of hackers he’s said to be affiliated with, ground an American Airlines plane at one point. The group tweeted out the bomb threat, but Kivimaki reportedly called American Airlines directly, according to John Smedley, former president of Sony Online Entertainment, who was on the plane at the time.
“I personally got to listen to a recording of [Kivimaki] calling in to American Airlines, and I know it was him because I talked to him myself,” Smedley told security researcher Brian Krebs. “He’s done all kinds of bad stuff to me, including putting all of my information out on the internet. He even attempted to use my credit numerous times. The harassment literally just did not stop.”
Tech Insider was unable to find contact information for Kivimaki.
If you remember the name “Lizard Squad,” you might remember how Sony’s PlayStation Network and Microsoft’s Xbox Live service went down for several days starting on Christmas Eve last year. That was due to Lizard Squad, which unleashed a coordinated series of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against those networks during the holidays, leaving millions of kids and adults angry and frustrated. (Sony and Microsoft reportedly lost over $40,000 every hour their game networks were down.)
When Sky News reached out to Lizard Squad for an interview, Kivimaki spoke as the group’s representative:
He was punished for these attacks — a Finnish court convicted Kivimaki, then 17 years old, of 50,700 computer crimes in relation to hacks committed by Lizard Squad. He was given a two-year suspended sentence and ordered to forfeit nearly $7,000. But that hasn’t stopped him from using a computer, and the pranks on the Strater family continue to this day.
In an email to The Daily Dot, the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation says it has “several ongoing investigations against Kivimaki,” adding it will “finalise some of the cases in the near future and hand them over to [the] prosecutor.” But the Straters’ story of helplessness against hacking gives you an idea of what could happen if you make a hacker your enemy.
For more on the saga between Kivimaki and the Strater family, check out The Daily Dot’s special report >>
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