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US teen pleads guilty over Scientology DDoS attacks

Anonymous botnet hacktivist faces spell behind bars

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A US teenager has admitted involvement in a high profile denial of service attack against Scientology websites last year.

Dmitriy Guzner of Verona, New Jersey, 19, pleaded guilty on Monday to charges of using a botnet of compromised PCs in order to flood Church of Scientology-related websites with spurious traffic back in January 2008. Guzner faces between 12 and 18 months at a sentencing hearing, due to take place on 24 August.

Guzner identified himself among the members of the Anonymous group which has been actively protesting against the Church of Scientology since last year, Assistant U.S. Attorney Wesley Hsu told a Newark Court, AP reports. Papers against Guzner were filed last October in a Los Angeles federal court before the case was moved to New Jersey.

Anonymous launched an ongoing campaign against the Church of Scientology in January 2008 after the controversial organisation attempted to pressurise websites into pulling an infamous video of Tom Cruise, taken at an earlier church awards event.

Tactics used since have moved on from nuisance phone calls to Church of Scientology premises and denial of service attacks to monthly, peaceful protests outside Church facilities. Members of loosely-affiliated group are known for wearing Guy Fawkes-style masks during protests.

Guzner is the first member of Anonymous to be charged over the DDoS attacks. It's unclear how the authorities tracked down Guzner or whether he was implicated in other incidents of cybercrime beyond attempts to blitz Church of Scientology websites. ®

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