A 19-year-old man has admitted to launching a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack that brought down Scientology Websites.Dmitriy Guzner, of Verona, N.J., pleaded guilty to charges that he used a botnet of compromised computers to launch a crippling assault that flooded Scientology Websites with Internet traffic in January 2008.
Botnets, of course, are typically used for the purposes of sending spam, stealing identities, or attacking Websites with blackmail in mind. There have been incidents of Websites being struck with DDoS attacks for political reasons, but strikes like this one against Scientology sites are rarer.
Scientology, founded by pulp sci-fi author L. Ron Hubbard in the 1950s, is no stranger to Internet skirmishes. These digital battles have been many and varied and, in some cases, reflect badly on both the Scientology and the anti-Scientology movement (which believes Scientology to be a destructive cult). Neither side has emerged appearing squeaky clean nor smelling like roses.
Guzner, the first member of the online "Anonymous" group to be prosecuted, is scheduled to be sentenced in August; he can expect to face a jail term of between 12 to 18 months under sentencing guidelines.
Let's hope that protesters like Guzner will learn from this -- that even if a person believes a controversial group like Scientology to be harmful to society, it is not appropriate to take illegal action against them. The law should be in the hands of the authorities, not Net vigilantes.
Graham Cluley is senior technology consultant at Sophos, and has been working in the computer security field since the early 1990s. When he's not updating his other blog on the Sophos Website, then you can find him on Twitter at @gcluley. Special to Dark Reading.