A 20-year-old American man who allegedly used the Twitter handle @WantedByFeds has been charged with DDoSing, sending bomb threats and more along with a British teenager who is already in prison.
Timothy Dalton Vaughn, of North Carolina in the US, was indicted by a grand jury* earlier this week after American federal investigators said they found key data linking him to online aliases that had, ironically, been leaked among millions of other people's details in a separate hack.
Vaughn is alleged to have acted as part of a loose-knit group of internet mischief-makers who called themselves the Apophis Squad. One of Vaughn's co-defendants is 19-year-old Briton George Duke-Cohan, formerly of Garston near Watford, who was found guilty in late 2018 of sending bomb hoaxes and making DDoS attacks against various schools and colleges. Duke-Cohan, who bizarrely claimed to a forensic psychiatrist that he had a history of harming small animals, is expected to be released from prison in May 2020.
Another British resident was identified by investigators as an "unindicted co-conspirator" based in Hampshire but not charged. In the indictment that person is identified only as "PartialDuplex", whose Twitter account refers heavily to Apophis Squad's various activities - and stopped tweeting on 12 May 2018, weeks after Duke-Cohan was arrested for the second time on 17 April.
The two are also said to have targeted infosec journalist Brian Krebs, who has written about his experiences of identifying them, separately from the official investigation.
Vaughn and Duke-Cohan, along with "PartialDuplex", are said to have gone on a spree of DDoSes, bomb and school shooting threats, as well as taking down encrypted email service Protonmail and forcing the evacuations of hundreds of schools in both America and Britain, as well as sending multiple threats of sending bombs and anthrax-filled packages to an FBI office in Omaha, Nebraska. Their tactics allegedly included spoofing email addresses to make it appear as if prominent people were sending threats on their behalf, including Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London.
They are also said to have DDoS'd the website hoonigan.com, which looks like Top Gear but features people below retirement age actually modifying and driving cars.
The 11 charges against Duke-Cohan and Vaughn, which include the bomb threats, attacks on computers, fake school shooting threats, could potentially see Vaughn locked up for 80 years and Duke-Cohan's prison term extended by 65 years in the US. ®
* A grand jury is an odd American legal custom in which prosecutors herd 23 random people into a room and refuse to let them leave until at least half agree on whether or not criminal charges ought to be brought against some third party who is not allowed to know what's going on or speak in his/ her defence. Originally conceived in English law around a thousand years ago as a safeguard against over-powerful nobles declaring themselves judge, jury and executioner, grand juries have long since been superseded in the rest of the world.