A New Jersey man has admitted he participated in January's high-profile cyber attack on the Church of Scientology that took its website offline and caused as much as $70,000 worth of damage.
Dmitriy Guzner, 18, of Verona, New Jersey, helped carry out the crippling distributed denial of service (DDoS) assault because he believed it furthered the goals of the anti-Scientology group "Anonymous," to which he claimed to belong, according to court documents filed in federal court. He has agreed to plead guilty to a single felony charge of unauthorized impairment of a protected computer.
He agreed to pay $37,500 in restitution, a fee he is "jointly and severally liable" for with others who participated in the attack. He faces a maximum of 10 years in federal prison. A sentencing hearing has not been scheduled. Guzner is a student who participated in, but did not organize, the attacks, said his attorney, Jeffrey Chabrowe, of The Blanch Law Firm in New York.
The attacks, which at times rendered Scientology's website unreachable, were said to be in retaliation for its misuse of copyright and trademark law in censorship of criticism against the church. The DDoS attacks, which take websites offline by bombarding them with more traffic than they can handle, were largely unsophisticated brute force, floods, security experts have said.
The Church of Scientology responded by moving its systems to a managed service run by security firm Prolexic.
Assistant US Attorney Wesley Hsu declined to provide additional details about the attack except to say that Guzner was located on the east coast while participating in the attack and that the Scientology servers were located in California.
This is the second time this month that an operative claimed to be linked to Anonymous has been hauled into court for hacking crimes. Last week, the son of a Tennessee legislator pleaded not guilty to charges he illegally broke in to the Yahoo Mail account of US vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Screenshots from Palin's account eventually were posted to the Wikileaks website, an act Anonymous took credit for.
Guzner was tracked down by the US Secret Service, the FBI, the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. The US Attorney's Office in Los Angeles is prosecuting the case. ®