The U.S. Department of Justice Thursday announced the seizure of 15 internet domains associated with computer hacking, as well as criminal charges against a Pasadena man who allegedly facilitated the computer attack platforms.
The sites, which offered what are often called “booter” or “stresser” services, allowed paying users to launch powerful distributed denial-of-service – or DDoS — attacks that flood targeted computers with information and prevent them from being able to access the internet, according to the DOJ.
The booter services named in papers filed in Los Angeles federal court allegedly cause attacks on a wide array of victims in the United States and abroad, including financial institutions, universities, internet service providers, government systems and various gaming platforms.
The action against the DDoS services comes the week before the Christmas holiday, a period historically plagued by prolific DDoS attacks in the gaming world.
Pursuant to seizure warrants issued by a Los Angeles federal judge, the FBI on Wednesday seized the domains of 15 booter services, which represent some of the world’s leading DDoS-for-hire services, including critical-boot.com, ragebooter.com, downthem.org, and quantumstress.net, according to federal prosecutors.
According to the affidavit in support of the warrant authorizing the seizure of the websites, the services offered easy access to attack infrastructure, payment options that included Bitcoin, and were relatively low cost. Each of the services was tested by the FBI, which verified DDoS attack services offered through each of the seized websites, according to the DOJ. While testing the various services, the FBI determined that these types of services can and have caused disruptions of networks at all levels.
In conjunction with the seizure warrants, prosecutors filed a criminal complaint that charges Juan Martinez, 25, of Pasadena, and Matthew Gatrel, 30, of St. Charles, Illinois, with conspiring to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act through the operation of services known as Downthem and Ampnode.
Downthem offered DDoS services directly to users who wished to attack other internet users, and Ampnode offered resources designed to facilitate the creation of standalone DDoS services by customers, according to the DOJ. Prosecutors allege that between October 2014 and last month, Downthem’s database showed more than 2,000 customer subscriptions, and had been used to conduct, or attempt to conduct, over 200,000 DDoS attacks.
“The attack-for-hire websites targeted in this investigation offered customers the ability to disrupt computer networks on a massive scale, undermining the internet infrastructure on which we all rely,” U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said.
“While this week’s crackdown will have a significant impact on this burgeoning criminal industry, there are other sites offering these services — and we will continue our efforts to rid the internet of these websites,” he said. “We are committed to seeing the internet remain a forum for the free and unfettered exchange of information.”
Over the past five years, booter and stresser services have grown as an increasingly prevalent class of DDoS attack tools, according to the U.S. government. These types of DDoS attacks are so named because they result in the booting or dropping of the victim-targeted website from the internet. Booter-based DDoS attack tools offer a low barrier to entry for users looking to engage in cyber criminal activity, representing an effective advance in internet attack technology, according to the DOJ.
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