DOJ Seizes Dozens of Websites as Part of Global Cyberattack-for-Hire Scheme

The FBI charged six people who were allegedly involved in large-scale cyberattacks on Wednesday.

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The FBI removed 48 cyberattack-for-hire websites and charged six individuals for working in collaboration with the scheme
Image: Sean Gallup (Getty Images)

The Department of Justice announced on Wednesday it took down 48 internet domains and charged six people who allegedly offered cyberattack-for-hire services. The defendants are each charged with allegedly offering booter services and operating at least one website that offered distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) services as well as subscriptions that varied in length and attack volume.

The U.S. obtained a court order to seize the 48 websites, and the FBI is currently in the process of seizing the sites, according to the DOJ.

DDoS services commonly refer to themselves as “stresser” or “booter” tools and the sites seized by the FBI include royalstresser and supremesecurityteam, among others.

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The sites permitted users to pay to launch DDoS attacks that flooded targeted computers with white noise to prevent them from accessing the internet. Educational institutions, government agencies, gaming platforms, and millions of individuals, were all included in attacks both in the U.S. and abroad, according to the DOJ.

The news release announced, “In addition to affecting targeted victims, these attacks can significantly degrade internet services and can completely disrupt internet connections.”

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Each cyberattack launched millions of “actual or attempted DDoS attacks” the DOJ reported, with the attacks targeting victims worldwide. This is not a new phenomenon, according to the DOJ, which says it has historically received a significant increase in the number of cyberattacks in the gaming world before the Christmas period. A similar operation was carried out just before the holiday in 2018 when the FBI seized 15 DDoS sites and charged three individuals.

The FBI worked with the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency and the Netherlands Police to use targeted placement ads in various search engines by posing as customers and conducting test attacks to confirm the DDoS sites were functioning as advertised. The ads are used to trigger DDoS keywords associated with its cyber activities and work to deter other cyber criminals from attempting a search for DDoS services.

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United States Attorney Martin Estrada said in the DOJ news release, “These booter services allow anyone to launch cyberattacks that harm individual victims and compromise everyone’s ability to access the internet.”

He continued, “This week’s sweeping law enforcement activity is a major step in our ongoing efforts to eradicate criminal conduct that threatens the internet’s infrastructure and our ability to function in a digital world.”

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Donald Alway, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office said in the news release, “Criminals are increasingly targeting essential services and our critical infrastructure with DDoS attacks that can cost victims valuable time, money, and reputational harm.

“Whether a criminal launches an attack independently or pays a skilled contractor to carry one out, the FBI will work with victims and use the considerable tools at our disposal to identify the person or group responsible.”

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Alway encouraged cybercrime victims to contact their local FBI field office or to reach out and file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov.