An Arizona man was sentenced in federal court this week to 20 months in prison for running a March 2015 cyberattack against Madison, Wisconsin, that took down the city government’s web services, including those used by its police and other emergency agencies.
Randall Charles Tucker, who called himself the “Bitcoin Baron” in online forums, received the sentence on Monday after pleading guilty to executing a distributed denial-of-service attack against the city — an operation that disables a system by overloading it with phony requests, effectively rendering it offline to legitimate users. He was also ordered to pay back more than $69,000 for damaging Madison’s computer systems over the course of the attack, which lasted about six days.
According to court documents, Tucker transmitted code to execute the DDoS attack from his home in Apache Junction, Arizona, through Madison’s firewalls. The attack disabled the city’s main website, and also caused the internet-connected communications systems used by Madison’s police and fire departments to fail, inhibiting their abilities to respond to emergencies. Workers at the city’s 911 call center also experienced disruptions.
“They’re preventing us from utilizing the Internet,” Paul Kronberger, Madison’s chief information officer, told Reuters during the attack. “There is not a lot we can do about it. The people who do this kind of attack are very skilled.”
The cyberattack against Madison occurred days after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed, 19-year-old black man named Tony Robinson, sparking protests throughout the Wisconsin capital and leading to threats from the hacker collective known as Anonymous.
Tucker was arrested about a month after the Madison attack. At the time, authorities also accused him of carrying out similar DDoS operations against municipal systems in the Arizona cities of Mesa and Chandler, as well as one against a video-news website based in Washington, D.C. Tucker pleaded guilty to the Madison attack in April 2017; the other incidents are not mentioned in his plea agreement or sentencing documents.
Tucker’s plea agreement does not mention any role for Anonymous in the Madison attack. In the document, he acknowledged boasting about it on social media using the “Bitcoin Baron” moniker.
According to court documents, Tucker does not appear to have reaped any cryptocurrency as a result of his attack.