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Federal authorities in Chicago have charged two suspected computer hackers for allegedly operating cyber-attack-for-hire websites that launched attacks on companies and individuals around the world.
Zachary Buchta, 19, of Fallston, Md., and Bradley Jan Willem Van Rooy, 19, of Leiden, the Netherlands, were charged with conspiring to cause damage to protected computers. The charges are the result of an international investigation into the computer hacking groups “Lizard Squad” and “PoodleCorp,” according to a criminal complaint and affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago. Buchta and van Rooy allegedly conspired with others to launch destructive cyber attacks around the world, and trafficked payment accounts that had been stolen from unsuspecting victims in Illinois and elsewhere.
Buchta was arrested last month in Maryland. He was scheduled to make an initial court appearance in Chicago on Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey T. Gilbert. Authorities in the Netherlands arrested van Rooy last month and he remains in custody there.
In addition to the charges, a federal court in Chicago ordered the seizure of four domain names associated with the alleged conspiracy. The complaint identifies the seized websites as shenron.lizardsquad.org, lizardsquad.org, stresser.poodlecorp.org, and poodlecorp.org.
Lizard Squad initially drew the attention of U.S. authorities during an investigation into phonebomber.net, a website that enabled paying customers to select victims to receive repeated harassing phone calls from spoofed numbers, according to the complaint. One of the victims, who resided in Illinois, last fall received a phone call every hour for thirty days. When the victim answered the phone, an audio recording stated that the victim “better look over your [expletive] back because I don’t flying [expletive] if we have to burn your [expletive] house down, if we have to [expletive] track your [expletive] family down, we will [expletive] your [expletive] up [expletive].”
Soon after the launch of phonebomber.net, Buchta, van Rooy and other members of Lizard Squad began denial-of-service attacks and boasted about them on social media, the complaint states. The attacks targeted various victims, including gaming, entertainment and media companies, and relied on a massive network of compromised computers and devices, according to the complaint.
Buchta, who used the online screen names [email protected],” “pein,” “xotehpoodle” and “lizard,” and van Rooy, who used the names “Uchiha,” [email protected],” “dragon” and “fox,” also conspired with other members of Lizard Squad to operate websites that provided cyber-attack-for-hire services, facilitating thousands of denial-of-service attacks, and to traffic stolen payment card account information for thousands of victims, according to the complaint.
The complaint and arrests were announced Wednesday by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and Michael J. Anderson, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Substantial assistance was provided by the Office of International Affairs of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; the Dutch Regional Criminal Investigation Service; the Dutch Prosecutor’s Office; and U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the District of Maryland, the District of New Jersey, and the Southern District of Ohio.
The public is reminded that a complaint is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.