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Sex, lies, and botnets: the saga of Perverted Justice

Ex-vigilante vents DDoS fury over sham affair

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

A computer programmer has been convicted of unleashing crippling attacks on rollingstone.com and other websites after they published a humiliating account of him engaging in an adulterous online affair with a fictitious woman.

Bruce Raisley, 49, was found guilty of a single count of launching a malicious program that infected about 100,000 computers worldwide, according to federal prosecutors in New Jersey. A former member of a vigilante group that posed as children online to publicly expose pedophiles, Raisley corralled the compromised machines into a botnet that he used to attack sites that carried unflattering articles about him.

Raisley's steamy online affair with “Holly” in 2005 grew out of a falling out he had with Xavier Von Erck, leader of the Perverted Justice vigilante group. After he and Raisley split, Von Erck posed online as the woman and began a relationship in which she convinced him to send him explicit pictures of himself.

When Raisley was eventually persuaded to leave his wife and begin a new life with his online lover, Von Erck had a photographer waiting at the Little Rock, Arkansas, airport to snap pictures of Raisley, with flowers in hand, as he waited to meet her for the first time. His wife ultimately filed for divorce and he lost contact with his son, according to the accounts.

For a time, Raisley and Von Erck had worked together on Perverted Justice. The group in turn worked with television NBC network show Dateline “To Catch a Predator,” in which adults are captured on camera arranging to have sex with minors. The two men ended up having a tumultuous falling out, and that's when Von Erck undertook his devastating revenge plot.

A tale this juicy was too much to pass up, so it eventually got retold in one of two articles published on the websites of Rolling Stone, Radar magazine, and Perverted Justice, among others.

That's when Raisley decided to seek revenge of his own. The programmer unleashed botnet software that he programmed to carry out attacks on the websites running the article. During the height of the attack, requests for the humiliating article on Rolling Stone skyrocketed from a “few page requests per day to millions of page requests per day,” prosecutors said.

Federal agents investigating the attacks ultimately identified Raisley after learning that one of the infected computers belonged to the Slovenian Computer Emergency Response Team. CERT members reverse engineered the bot and discovered it reported to two domain names under his control. During a March 2008 raid on Raisley's home in Pennsylvania, agents confiscated a memory stick that contained copies of the bot software.

Raisley nonetheless pleaded not guilty to the charges. On Wednesday, a jury of seven women and five men found him guilty following a six-day trial. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison at sentencing, which is scheduled for January 7. ®

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