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A software developer whom authorities say once worked with the online vigilante group Perverted Justice has been charged with launching denial of service attacks against web sites belonging to Rolling Stone, Radar and others.
Bruce Raisley, 47, allegedly launched the attacks to block access to two articles written by the publications that reported embarrassing information about him. But ironically his attempt to obscure the information is now bringing even more attention to it.
“His actions were alarming in that he chose to attack third party web sites when he didn’t like their content,” says Assistant U.S. Attorney Erez Liebermann. “It’s one thing for him to be unhappy with a web site. It’s another thing for him to attack third parties that have not done anything, which causes damage on the side of the victim companies and on the side of any affected computer.”
According to a federal complaint (.pdf) unsealed today in New Jersey and written by FBI Special Agent Susan Secco, Raisley launched the attack against nine sites using a botnet that he controlled. One of the computers in the botnet belonged to the Academic and Research Network of Slovenia, which is the base for Slovenia’s Computer Emergency Response Team. The team helped U.S. authorities trace the botnet and DDoS attacks to Raisley.
Rolling Stone experienced multiple DDoS attacks between July 2007 and March 2008 in an attempt to prevent readers from gaining access to an article the magazine published in July 2007 titled “To Catch a Predator: Is NBC’s Primetime Dragnet the New American Witch Hunt?”
Another web site for a group called Corrupted Justice experienced three attacks in 2007 and 2008 that lasted several days. The site had published a copy of the Rolling Stone article as well as another article published in 2006 by Radar titled “Strange Bedfellows.” According to the complaint, Raisley had asked the site to remove the articles and when this didn’t happen, he launched attacks against it. He allegedly contacted the site’s administrator and boasted that he had “unleashed a virus that could never be stopped” and that the administrator could “kiss [his] website goodbye because nothing could protect [his] servers against this attack.”
When FBI agents raided his home in March 2008, they recovered a memory stick and hard drive that Raisely allegedly admitted contained malware that he wrote to conduct the web site attacks.
Per the complaint, Raisley was a volunteer with Perverted Justice in 2004 but became an active opponent after falling out with the group.
Perverted Justice is a group based in Oregon run by Xavier Von Erick, aka Phillip John Eide, that helped NBC create its controversial sweeps-week “To Catch a Predator” series. The group’s volunteer members posed as young minors online to lure adults into sexual conversations then, after verifying the would-be predator’s identity, would post his name and other personal details on its web site to encourage others to harass the target at home and work. After the group partnered with NBC, targets were also lured to a decoy house where NBC’s cameras would catch them in the act of meeting with the “minor,” ostensibly for sex.
According to articles about Perverted Justice written by Rolling Stone and Radar, Raisley fell out with the group after one of its members allegedly used a picture of his son to lure predators. Von Erick denied the claim to Radar in a story that no longer appears to be available on the site, but is archived at other sites.
Raisley became an outspoken opponent of the group after this, posting online threats against members and exposing the online handles they used to pose as minors and lure predators. In retaliation, Von Erick told Radar that he posed as a young woman named “Holly” online and lured Raisley, who is married, into a relationship. Raisley chatted with Holly via instant messaging for months and even engaged in cybersex with her. He reportedly told his wife he planned to leave her for Holly and rented an apartment for his new “lover.” But when Raisely went to meet “Holly” at the airport, Von Erick sent someone to snap a picture of him carrying flowers and waiting expectantly for his “lover.” Von Erick posted the picture online with a message mocking Raisley.
When Radar contacted Raisley’s wife she told the publication, “That was just a big old mess.” She went on to say, “He’s already lost one job over this, and he doesn’t want anybody to know about it. I’m just hoping this will just fade away.”
The chance that the story would “fade away,” however, wasn’t likely as long as sites continued to publish it. So Raisley allegedly tried to make it go away with his DDoS attacks.
Raisley, whom Liebermann says works for HSBC, faces a maximum of ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He was released on a $100,000 unsecured bond and is restricted to using his home computer for work purposes only. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 20.
A call to Raisley’s home in Pennsylvania was not returned.
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