Burned in Sex Sting, Hacker Attacks Computers

Bruce Raisley Targeted Rolling Stone, Radar Web Sites After Humiliation

ABC News/September 23, 2010

A computer programmer who launched a virus that infected about 100,000 computers and directed them to attack media outlets that republished stories about him was found guilty in federal court in New Jersey Wednesday.

Bruce Raisley, 49, was convicted on one count of a federal indictment that charged him with creating a malicious program that attacked computers and websites. He had been a volunteer for Perverted Justice, an organization that worked with the Dateline NBC television show "To Catch a Predator" to identify and apprehend pedophiles.

After a falling out with the group and its founder, Xavier Von Erck, Raisley became an outspoken critic of Perverted Justice and Von Erck, according to Paul Fishman, the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey.

Von Erck retaliated by posing online as an adult woman named "Holly" and initiating an Internet relationship with Raisley. After a long web courtship that included x-rated instant messaging, Raisley agreed to leave his wife for "Holly," even locating an apartment where they could live together.

When he showed up at the airport, flowers in hand, to meet "Holly," however, his new girlfriend was nowhere to be found. Instead, a Perverted Justice volunteer took a photo of Raisley waiting forlornly with his bouquet. Von Erck then posted the picture on the web along with the text of a sex chat between Raisley and the imaginary "Holly."

When two popular magazines, Rolling Stone and Radar, published articles in 2006 and 2007 that discussed the TV show and its techniques and included references to the "Holly" sting, Raisley launched a virus designed to attack computers and web sites.

Raisley Caused $100K In Damage

"Regardless of Raisley's motivations, his attacks on computer systems were misdirected vengeance," said Fishman. "It is unacceptable when a personal vendetta turns into criminal behavior, and we will track down cybercriminals who launch such malicious attacks."

According to the government, Raisley's virus turned about 100,000 computers into a "botnet" that he remote controlled and directed to launch "denial of service" attacks against any web site that republished the articles about his humiliation. The attacks used the computers to bombard the web sites with a huge volume of requests for access, thus creating "an all circuits are busy" effect, the government noted. As a result, legitimate users of the sites could not gain access.

Raisley launched repeated attacks in 2007 and 2008. The FBI raided his house in March 2008.

Raisley mounted no defense in the six-day trial and a jury deliberated just hours before finding him guilty of creating the program that attacked the computers and web sites. The count carries a maximum sentence of up to ten years and a maximum fine of up to $150,000. In addition, Raisley will be required to make restitution for the estimated $100,000 in economic harm that he did to the web sites.

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