Podcast – Digital Desperados 5: Securing the Digital Frontier: Innovative Cybersecurity Solutions with SaferNet VPN







In today’s interconnected world, where digital threats lurk behind every click, the need for robust cybersecurity solutions has never been more pressing. Whether you’re a seasoned netizen or a newcomer to the digital landscape, the tales of cyber threats are as compelling as they are cautionary. That’s where we step in with our podcast, ‘Digital Desperados,’ bringing to light the harrowing stories from the digital frontier while showcasing how SaferNet VPN stands as your guard in this relentless cyber battle.

In our latest episode, we unmask the enigmatic world of hacking through the eyes of those who dare to navigate its murky waters. Join us as we delve into the dark tale of ‘Mafia Boy’ – not to instill fear, but to arm you with the knowledge that today’s cybersecurity solutions, like SaferNet VPN, are designed to shield you against such ingenuity turned rogue. It’s not just about safeguarding data; it’s about empowering you, the user, to claim your rightful place in the digital realm – secure, confident, and protected.

With SaferNet VPN, we’re not just offering a service; we’re delivering peace of mind. Our easy-to-use app is your ticket to a world where cybersecurity solutions are accessible, effective, and unfailingly vigilant. As you read through this gripping episode transcript, remember that each line echoes the importance of cybersecurity – a field where SaferNet is your stalwart ally.

So, buckle up and prepare to be both entertained and educated. Our digital desperados await to take you through the shadowy paths of the internet, all the while reminding you of the bright beacon of security that is SaferNet VPN.

Jim: Welcome to the Digital Desperados Podcast featuring Dark Tales from the Web. Patrick McMurphy is here today, once again, to tell us our dark tale. He’s joined by Brad Hawkins, founder and CEO of SaferNet VPN, and I’m Jim Brangenberg, and I’ll serve as your story guide. And this podcast is, of course, brought to you by SaferNet VPN.

Someone’s always watching. How else would they know how to advertise on the side of your screen for stuff you’ve just talked about in the living room? Stay safe in your Family room, stay safe in your business with SaferNet VPN. Our easy to use cyber security app keeps businesses and families protected.

They got VPN with internet controls and virus protection and 84 web web filters for distraction free. Online environment get secured now sign up at SaferNet. com. That’s SaferNet. com Okay, patrick, who do you have for us today? What dark tale are you bestowing upon us today?

Patrick: Well today I shall bestow on the the dark tale of michael calshay aka mafia boy And so michael’s actually a first for us because we know about michael’s childhood He’s that he wasn’t born in darkness like the rest of them.

So michael is from canada And his parents were separated, and so he would spend every second week with his father. And now when he spent those weeks with his father, his father was always very busy with work. And so he kept Michael occupied with Rubik’s Cubes, Lego, problem solving toys. Immediately as a kid, he was into problem solving and just logic problems.

But at the same time, you know, he felt isolated from his friends back in his mother’s neighborhood and things like this. So his father would eventually purchase his own computer for him at the age of six. And Michael was obsessed with this computer and at the age of six, he was reading coding books and hardware books.

So straight out the gate, right? We see this kid who’s extraordinarily gifted. The guy is probably a better coding at six. Then I am at like 30, 30 something, you know, so Michael had a 30 day trial for AOL. And I don’t know if you guys remember when AOL had these 30 day trials and you, you would have to basically pay with a credit card if you want to extend it.

But, you know, at an early age, I mean, they don’t give kids credit cards, is what I’m trying to say here. And so Michael finds this program called AOL, right? And I won’t get too deep into this, but what AOL was, was that it was a scripting tool that would allow you to basically perform different acts on a, on a AOL that you shouldn’t have been able to do.

For example, it allowed him to appear as an admin in the AOL chat rooms.

Brad: And so this is him at six years old?

Patrick: He’s actually nine at this point. So he started on in the years, you know, nine years old with his first scripting tool. And so what Michael discovers at age of nine with AOL, AOL is that he discovers social engineering.

And so because Michael is only ever able to find 30 day trials from magazines and things, he actually social engineers the other users. On AOL chat, he appears as an admin and gets their login details and then just takes their accounts off them so he can keep going back online the whole time. He said in later interviews that this, what he was doing here, that was the beginning of the rabbit hole for him.

Jim: And so Michael eventually That reference, of course, to Alice in Wonderland. For those of you that are listening to this who have not watched that, that incredibly twisted tale or read it either. Yeah, the rabbit hole. Sucked in.

Patrick: Absolutely. And so Michael finds IRC, which is Internet Relay Chat, which was very, very popular back in the day, back in the nineties especially.

And IRC is really just a collection of chat rooms. It’s easiest way to explain it. And so Michael was an avid gamer, but he couldn’t afford to buy games. So I mean, he was at maybe about 10 or 11 at this point, but he did find an IIRC channel that’s distributing pirate at games. And there was a hacking channel, a hacking group running this channel, and they were recruiting.

And so Michael applied, and the hackers being, you know, sound, moral sense, they told him that he’s too young to become a hacker. And, so, Michael takes

Jim: So it’s good to know, Brad, that the hackers have some moral compass, and you gotta be older in order to steal from people.

Patrick: Yeah, exactly. If you can buy cigarettes, then you can hack someone. If you can’t buy cigarettes, you’re too young.

Brad: Good to know.

Patrick: And so Michael kind of takes a bit, takes it as a bit of a challenge. And so the first thing he does, he hacks into a game developer’s website and basically starts stealing the game files and distributing them. And so the hacking group are like, okay, this kid’s onto something. Let’s recruit him.

And so Michael and his group begin just hacking anything they can, they’re stealing more games they’re breaking into university networks, any early business websites that are around. Michael described this period as he felt like hacking was intoxicating him. Anytime he breached the network, he said it was like a drug.

And so, Michael eventually turns age 13. So, we’re still in the formative years here. But Michael has, has built up this just, Very good reputation as this wonder kid, basically, he’s this wonder kid who can hack anything. And so, he gets recruited by a group called TNT. Who are known as being one of the most elite hacking groups in that circle at the time.

This is when DDoS attacks become popular around those years. And that is when you basically take a ton of different computers, or just kind of network connections, and target one server all at the same time. You overwhelm the target on it’s taken. It’s basically taken offline.

Brad: So, so, so if, if, if I was to look at that as a as understand what that is, is a DDS attack is for the purpose of putting a website down.

It’s taking, taking it out of its game, right? So if somebody wanted to attack a company, they could do a DDS attack against the company and just make it so that that. Website is obsolete. Is that? Yeah.

Jim: And why would they do that? Why do you want to take somebody’s website down? What’s the advantage?

Patrick: Why, why do people spray graffiti on the walls of cities?

Jim: Because it’s pretty. I mean, graffiti can be pretty. But why do you take so little?

Patrick: It’s, it’s, it’s a statement for these guys. I think it is that kind of just saying because, because they can.

Brad: And that’s kind of been his M. O. all along, is he just gets excited about the fact that he has the power to go and steal the gaming…

Code or or he has the power. He’s he can go back to his dad and say look what I did. No, I’m just kidding.

Jim: Mafia boy finally gets leg hair and he’s all of a sudden, you know a premier hacker. I love that You know, you know, so what you know, what if you have one place to monitor? All the activity of everyone in your business.

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Okay. So we finally have this kid who’s getting a leg hair, maybe some armpit hair. That’s what I was thinking, actually. And he’s part of TNT, a hacking group.

Patrick: Exactly. And now just for kind of some time control context here, this is. Around the year 2000. It is the year 2000. So it’s the height of the e commerce boom. E commerce stocks are trading high. And so, Mafia Boy, within TNT, establishes these teams, little departments, to write their own DDoS scripts. And he has plans for a project, and he calls this project Revolta, which means revolution in Italian.

And so, Revolta is to last over 8 days, and it is… The plan of Revolta is just to be this DDoS storm across the e commerce internet. The first target would be Yahoo. And so what Michael did, what Mafia Boy did I should say, is that when he went to school, he left all these DDoS tools running. And so while this guy is

doing calculus, his computers back home are targeting e commerce as the world knows it then.

So, over the following 8 days, Revolta takes down eBay, CNN, Amazon, Dell, Yahoo, and a number of other websites, and then it causes 1. 7 billion dollars worth of damage. I don’t know what that is adjusted for inflation, but

Jim: in today’s world, it’s at least 50 percent more than that. But okay. So he took down these sites and so where does the 1. 7, are they saying in lost sales? Are they saying this, how much it costs them to rebuild everything? Where, where, where does this damage has come from?

Patrick: I think it’s a mix of both, Jim. Yeah, there’s definitely the, the, the last cost there but there is actually rebuilding. Things like servers and getting people in to fix servers, because there was really no DDoS protection back then so, you know, you’re getting engineers getting the call at 2 in the morning, hey, your website’s gone, you know, so.

Yeah, there, there’s both the hardware, there’s the labor cost, and there’s the lost cost of e-commerce itself.

Jim: Well, and back then Amazon just sold books, so it wasn’t so bad. But , I mean, but what’s funny is, so you’re saying that was 2000, so that was AY two K, you know, that was when the, the world was gonna come to an end on computers, and he obviously figured out it wasn’t gonna bother them, so they just kept going.

Patrick: Yeah, exactly. and. Clinton, the president Clinton at the time even addressed the attacks in the address. So it made headlines. And so the FBI were using a number of different tactics. They’d plant in IRC rooms, for example. They were trying to get in with TNT. There was 16 different task forces to track down Mafia Boy.

Who’s at this point still like 13, 14 years old. They had assistance from the Mounties in Canada as well. They eventually caught him for something that would embarrass most hackers and that’s reusing a username across multiple sources. So he had mafia boy on like one of his old AOL accounts or something, you know, so they could trace him immediately.

Brad: Well, what’s a 14 year old kid know about? Hi, exactly. Yeah.

Patrick: There was 50 charges brought against him, and he pleaded guilty to all of them. So, the Montreal Youth Court sentenced him actually on September 12th, 2001. Eight months of open custody, one years of probation, restricted use of the internet, and a small fine.

Now the 1. 7 billion dollars I mentioned a while ago, that actually wasn’t known at the time. At the time of the sentencing, they thought it was 7. 5 million, but they just didn’t know the actual extent of the damage yet. Now, a lot happened. Around this time after, after Mafia Boy got arrested. So there was a hearing before members of the United States Congress.

There was a computer expert by the name of Winn Sharto, and he had said government and commercial computer systems are so poorly protected today that essentially can be considered defenseless. An electronic Pearl Harbor waiting to happen. And former CIA agent Craig Quint goes on to credit Mafia Boy for the significant increase in online security that took place between, we’ll say, 2001 and 2011.

Brad: And so, So if I understand it correctly, he, his, his role or his, his objective was just to be known. He wasn’t trying to make money somewhere. He wasn’t trying to steal. He wasn’t, he wasn’t trying to do anything other than shut down or access.

Patrick: Yeah, which to me actually makes him more dangerous because he doesn’t have a financial motivation.

He just does it for, you know, like that Batman line. Some men just want to see, watch the world burn, you know?

Jim: So, so after he gets convicted, have we ever heard from him? I know you got more stuff you want to tell me, but have we ever heard from him again?

Patrick: Yeah, we have quite a bit. So Michael’s actually out and about now and he’s become a spokesperson and consultant for cyber security, and he works as a freelance white hat hacker.

So you can hire Michael Kalshay, Mafia Boy, today to get him to break your system and see if it’s secure. He did release a book a few years ago called Mafia Boy, How I Cracked the Internet and Why It’s Still Broken.

Brad: So, so explain White Hat Hacker. I think that’s fascinating and highly intriguing.

Patrick: It is.

So, most White Hat Hackers are actually a bit like Mafia Boy. They’re hackers who get arrested and then serve their time and get rehabilitated. And so what a White Hat Hacker will do is that they sell their services. A company will employ a White Hat Hacker. The test to see if their security good, good enough.

So what Masi boy will do now, he’ll hack into your company’s website, and if he can get in, he’ll give you a list of recommendations. He’ll tell you how he got in, and then he’ll give you recommendations on how to secure your systems, and then he’ll keep trying until you’re 100 percent secure.

Brad: Yeah, I, I just, I just love that.

You know, these hackers will change their hat and go from black to white. And yeah, we’ve, we’ve done that. We’ve, we’ve had a group of six white hats that have just beat the tar out of, of our, our product. And then, and then checked it out, made sure that we’re, we’re operating the way that it should operate and, and they’re thrilled, but every once in a while they’ll come in and do their best to, to destroy things and reveal holes.

Jim: So what you’re saying, SaferNet has been tried and tested by some of the best trying to destroy you. That’s how you make it better.

Brad: Well, they I, I believe they’re some of the best, although they did get caught. So, but but they, they were very, very good and, and they’ve done a tremendous job for us.

Jim: So, yes, maybe you should look up this mafia boy. All right, Patrick, but, but since SaferNet is, I mean, you just gave a great plug, Brad for SaferNet. You understood this and you made sure that you’re brought in people like mafia boy. to check out SaferNet to make sure that it is as solid as you say it is, because you want to have a product that is reputable and it’s fantastic. SaferNet. com. Check it out. Okay. Patrick finishes up.

Patrick: Yeah. And so, you know, I’ve skimmed through his book. I’ve looked at interviews with him. He has a lot to say about the current state of the internet. He really emphasizes that security, not only is it still sketchy, he actually thinks it’s worse. And one of the reasons he thinks it’s worse is because programs, websites, apps, everything have become more complex and have more lines of code.

Increasing complexity means there’s more mistakes that can appear. There’s more doorways into a system. He feels that the market, the software market nowadays only cares about getting things released as soon as possible. They’re developed quickly, they’re not structurally sound. He calls the current internet a hacker’s paradise.

He believes everybody’s a target. And he feels that phishing is the natural successor to what he did with social engineering on AOL. You know, getting the accountant of, accountant of a big company to click a link, etc. He’s also warned a lot about public Wi Fi. And he said the real exploit is the human being.

And just to kind of finish it off, he said what the reason why people don’t consider digital security versus physical security, you know, if you get mugged on the street, you feel that it’s a physical act. If someone’s hacking your computer, you don’t feel it. So mentally, you don’t equate it to, you know, you’re actually getting robbed or that it’s a crime.

Yeah, there we go. So Mafia Boy, the exploit is the human being.

Jim: You may not feel it physically, but I have known friends who have been robbed on the internet by hackers and they feel it and it’s, it’s, they feel violated. It’s very similar to the feeling of being mugged on the streets of New York City or any of those other great cities where they don’t support crime anymore, or they do support crime, they don’t support justice anymore. Brad Mafia boy, can we stop him today? We’re SaferNet?

Brad: Absolutely. Absolutely. And that’s the thing is that a lot of these guys, you know, we, we study and we learn about, we understand, you know, their, their whole drive or mission is to be able to do something that will give them a name.

And and I think it’s obvious. I think if Mafia boy wouldn’t have gotten caught, he probably would have ended up in the place of saying, Okay, you know, I’ve got enough a name. Now I got to start making some money. And then he starts stealing or doing whatever. But the the intent is to be able to access and then start capitalizing on that.

And somehow he got caught before that, which is Fantastic. But I, I gotta say, I think there’s a ton of mafia boys out there. I think there’s tons of them just hacking into people’s computers networks of businesses and, and truthfully, a

lot of businesses will do their best to hide it because they don’t want to reveal the fact that they’ve been exposed.

They don’t want to put themselves into a vulnerable spot. I think that’s where most small businesses need to pay close attention to what it is that’s going on. Most businesses will go out of business after they’re a, a major hack and that’s, that’s pretty scary.

Jim: Yeah, it is scary. You heard it here. The internet and everything digital can have a dark side with many dark players like mafia boy.

It’s why you need SaferNet buyer side, VPN, antivirus, you know, it’s. Website filters. It’s just got it all. Thanks to SaferNet for supporting our efforts to bring these stories to your ears and giving them Exposure the exposure that they need Please for your own security the security of those you love and those you work with check out SaferNet.

com That’s SaferNet. com and get secured today till the next time Click only on the attachments and the links that you trust from those you trust and delete the rest Or you may become the next victim of a digital desperado.

As our digital odyssey draws to a close and the echoes of Mafia Boy’s story fade, we’re left with a profound understanding of the virtual battleground we navigate daily. It’s clear that the tales from the digital underbelly serve as a stark reminder of our vulnerabilities online. But fear not, for every story of cyber chaos is also a testament to the power of proactive defense with cutting-edge cybersecurity solutions.

Cybersecurity Solutions

SaferNet VPN emerges as the unsung hero in this narrative, offering more than just a shield—it is a fortress for the digital soul, steadfast against the onslaught of cyber threats. By embracing such robust cybersecurity solutions, we can each become digital warriors in our own right, equipped to protect not just our data, but our peace of mind.

Remember, the realm of cybersecurity is ever-evolving, and staying ahead means choosing solutions that evolve with it. SaferNet VPN is dedicated to ensuring that your digital journey is secure, seamless, and safe from the prowling eyes of the modern-day desperados.

So as you step back into the boundless realms of the internet, carry with you the insights from today’s tale and let SaferNet VPN be your guide and guardian. For it is not just a tool, but a companion in the vast, often wild digital landscape. Explore with confidence, secure in the knowledge that you have the best of cybersecurity solutions at your service.

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