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PayPal 13 plead guilty to launching DDoS attacks

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Thirteen US defendants last week pleaded guilty to taking part in attacks by Anonymous against PayPal.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) said the accused had all admitted to carrying out a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) cyber-attack against PayPal in December 2010 in protest against the payment processing firm's decision to stop handling donations to WikiLeaks over the Cablegate affair. One of the defendants also pleaded guilty to a separate cyber-attack on the website of Santa Cruz County.

In a plea agreement, the accused admitted using the Low Orbit Ion Cannon tool, Anonymous's favourite website flooding utility, to hit PayPal as part of “Operation Avenge Assange”. The 13 defendants pleaded guilty to computer hacking offences.

In a DoJ statement, the accused were named as: Christopher Wayne Cooper, 26 (AKA Anthrophobic), from Elberta, Alabama; Joshua John Covelli, 28, (AKA Absolem) from Fairborn, Ohio; Keith Wilson Downey, 29, from Jacksonville, Florida; Mercedes Renee Haefer, 22, (AKA No) from Las Vegas, Nevada; Donald Husband, 32, (AKA Ananon) from Fairfield, California; Vincent Charles Kershaw, 29, (AKA Trivette, Triv, and Reaper) from Fort Collins, Colorado; Ethan Miles, 36, from Flagstaff, Arizona; James C. Murphy, 39, from Baldwin Park, California; Drew Alan Phillips, 28, (AKA Drew010) from Santa Rosa, California; Jeffrey Puglisi, 30, (AKA Jeffer) from Clinton Township, Michigan; Daniel Sullivan, 24, from Camarillo, California; Tracy Ann Valenzuela, 44, from Napa, California; and Christopher Quang Vo, 24, from Attleboro, Massachusetts.

Covelli also pleaded guilty to executing a DDoS attack (with another defendant, presently a fugitive) against the Santa Cruz County web server, which the Feds reported him as saying was "in retaliation" for the break-up of a local protest camp by the City of Santa Cruz. Covelli and others, calling themselves the “People’s Liberation Front” or “PLF” and claiming to allegiance to Anonymous, launched a DDoS against Santa Cruz County’s website as part of “Operation Peace Camp 2010”.

All 13 defendants were released on bail pending sentencing hearings scheduled for November and December 2014.

Last week eBay chairman Pierre Omidyar called for leniency in the prosecution of those accused of playing a part in DDoSing PayPal. He pointed out that the accused are part of thousands who took part in the protest. There's no particular suggestion that any of the accused can be properly described as ringleaders in the protest but despite this and even after their guilty pleas, the suspects are still at risk of finding themselves behind bars for a prolonged stay at Club Fed.

The PayPal DDoS prosecution follows an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, along with cooperation from PayPal. Authorities in the Netherlands, Germany and France have also taken their own investigative and enforcement actions. The National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance also provided assistance in investigating the high profile case. ®

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