Feds arrest man allegedly behind DDoS attacks against Rolling Stone

Pennsylvania man reportedly went after sites that ran stories about 'cybervigilante' group

Computerworld/June 30, 2009

A Pennsylvania man has been charged with allegedly launching distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against at least nine Web sites, including Rolling Stone magazine's site, which was attacked multiple times for nearly a year.

Bruce Raisley, of Monaca, Pa., has been charged with intentionally causing damage to a protected computer. Raisley, who surrendered to authorities, is scheduled for a court hearing this afternoon in U.S. District Court in Newark, N.J.

According to FBI Special Agent Susan Secco's written account in a criminal complaint, Raisley allegedly launched repeated DDoS attacks against several Web sites for close to a year. All of the sites targeted ran one of two articles about the controversial organization Perverted Justice, which works to identify sexual predators and pedophiles. The group worked with the producers of Dateline NBC's popular To Catch a Predator reality TV show, which aimed to catch adults in the act of contacting minors for sexual liaisons.

Secco noted in the criminal complaint that Raisley had worked as a volunteer for Perverted Justice in 2004. Raisley supposedly had a falling out with the group, and in 2006 he began volunteering with Corrupted Justice, an organization focused on outing so-called cybervigilante groups.

In 2006, Radar Magazine published an article titled "Strange Bedfellows" about Perverted Justice. The next year, Rolling Stone magazine published its own article on Perverted Justice called "To Catch a Predator: The New American Witch Hunt." Both articles were picked up and reprinted on various Web sites.

The Rolling Stone article contends that the leaders behind Perverted Justice sought revenge against Raisley for criticizing their tactics. To pay him back, one man allegedly pretended to be a woman online and lured Raisley into a fraudulent relationship simply to embarrass him.

The FBI agent said Raisley allegedly used a botnet to launch repeated attacks, not only against the Rolling Stone Web site, but against the page with the article, in particular. "During the height of the DDoS attacks, the page requests for the article escalated from a few page requests per day to millions of page requests per day, causing the Web site to experience significant slowdown," wrote Secco.

Other sites attacked include Perverted-Justice.com, Corrupted-Justice.net and RadarOnline.com.

In a search of Raisley's home, the FBI reportedly seized computers and electronics, including a 2GB memory stick, which held copies of programs used in the attacks. Raisley also allegedly told FBI agents that he wrote the programs on the memory stick.

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