Published : Thursday, December 20, 2018 | 4:17 PM
The U.S. Department of Justice has charged a Pasadena man with conspiring to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act through the operation of computer attack platforms, often called “booter” or “stresser” services.
These platforms allow paying users to launch powerful distributed denial-of-service – known as DDoS – attacks that flood targeted computers with information and prevent them from being able to access the internet.
The Justice Department also said Thursday it had seized 15 internet domains associated with DDoS-for-hire services.
The action against the DDoS services comes the week before the Christmas holiday, a period historically plagued by prolific DDoS attacks in the gaming world.
According to the DOJ complaint Juan Martinez, 25, of Pasadena, was charged with operating the booter service known as Downthem and Ampnode.
According to an affidavit supporting the criminal complaint, Downthem offered DDoS services directly to users who wished to attack other internet users; Ampnode offered resources designed to facilitate the creation of standalone DDoS services by customers.
Between October 2014 and November 2018, Downthem’s database showed over 2,000 customer subscriptions, and had been used to conduct, or attempt to conduct, over 200,000 DDoS attacks.
“The attack-for-hire websites targeted in this investigation offered customers the ability to disrupt computer networks on a massive scale, undermining the internet infrastructure on which we all rely,” said United States Attorney Nick Hanna. “While this week’s crackdown will have a significant impact on this burgeoning criminal industry, there are other sites offering these services – and we will continue our efforts to rid the internet of these websites. We are committed to seeing the internet remain a forum for the free and unfettered exchange of information.”
“DDoS for hire services such as these pose a significant national threat,” said Bryan Schroder, the U.S. Attorney for the Alaska district. “Coordinated investigations and prosecutions such as these demonstrate the importance of cross-District collaboration and coordination with public sector partners.”
Assistant Attorney General Bryan A. Benczkowski, of the DOJ’s Criminal Division, said DDoS attacks are serious crimes that can cause real harm, as shown by the wide range of sectors allegedly victimized.
“The operators and the customers of DDoS-for-hire services should be on notice that the Department of Justice will aggressively prosecute those who perpetrate malicious cyber attacks,” Benczkowski said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation said it considers both launching the DDoS attack and hiring DDoS service as criminal activity.
“Working with our industry and law enforcement partners, the FBI will identify and potentially prosecute you for this activity,” FBI Assistant Director Matthew Gorham said in a statement. “We will use every tool at our disposal to combat all forms of cybercrime including DDoS activity.”
The FBI is encouraging all DDoS victims to contact their local FBI field office, or to file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.
The criminal case against Martinez and Gatrel is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cameron Schroeder of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section in Los Angeles. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Galatzan of the Asset Forfeiture Section is handling the seizure of the domains, the DOJ said.