His Epic Hack Paralyzed a Nation. He's About to Go Free

Daniel Kaye took down Liberia's internet as part of a corporate plot
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 2, 2020 6:30 PM CST
Updated Jan 5, 2020 10:00 AM CST
Hacker Who Paralyzed a Nation About to Go Free
Stock photo.   (Getty/DragonImages)

In November of 2016, a friend sent Daniel Kaye a message asking him how things were going. "I have broken the Internet and am dead afraid but otherwise everything’s hunky dory," wrote Kaye in response. As a story at Bloomberg explains, the British 29-year-old wasn't exaggerating too much. Three months later, he would be arrested at a London airport and imprisoned for 32 months for a hack that paralyzed the nation of Liberia. Kaye was working for that nation's second-biggest telecom company, Cellcom, and he unleashed a botnet that crashed the network of the No. 1 company, Lonestar. For days, half the people in the poor African country couldn't access bank accounts; hospitals went offline; disease specialists dealing with Ebola lost contact with world health agencies, etc. Liberia even appealed to the UN for help.

The attack was so huge that many thought it had to be the work of Russia or China. Soon, it spread to Germany and crashed the routers of Deutsche Telekom, and then it brought down the websites of two UK banks. A panicked Kaye, who didn't think anyone would care much about the initial attack in Liberia, tried to cover his tracks to no avail. "German police identified a username, which led to an email address, which led to a Skype account, which led to a Facebook page" belonging to Kaye. The story details the intricacies of the hack, and it also traces Kaye's shady past in the hacking community (he was more of a "gray hat" than a "white hat" or "black hat"), his work with a former Cellcom exec who is now under investigation himself, and his hopes of working in online security upon his release from prison early this year. Read it in full here. (More Longform stories.)

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