Man Charged in Scientology Web Attack
Dmitriy Guzner of Verona, New Jersey, was part of an underground hacking group called Anonymous that has made the church a target of several attacks. He was charged Friday but has agreed to plead guilty sometime in the next few weeks, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement.
He faces 10 years in prison on computer hacking charges.
Anonymous quickly followed its attacks with a series of YouTube videos, claiming its actions were a response to what it said were efforts by the Church to suppress a video of movie star Tom Cruise professing his admiration for the religion.
“For the good of your followers, for the good of mankind and for our own enjoyment, we shall proceed to expel you from the Internet and systematically dismantle the Church of Scientology in its present form,” a creepy computerized voice says in one Anonymous video.
Dmitriy Guzner is charged with a single felony count of unauthorized impairment of a protected computer for the January DDoS attack. He faces a likely sentence of 12 to 18 months in prison based on stipulations in his plea agreement, which also obliges him to pay $37,500 in restitution.
A New Jersey man has admitted he participated in January’s high-profile cyber attack on the Church of Scientology that took its website offline and caused as much as $70,000 worth of damage.
Dmitriy Guzner, 18, of Verona, New Jersey, helped carry out the crippling distributed denial of service (DDoS) assault because he believed it furthered the goals of the anti-Scientology group “Anonymous,” to which he claimed to belong, according to court documents filed in federal court. He has agreed to plead guilty to a single felony charge of unauthorized impairment of a protected computer.
He agreed to pay $37,500 in restitution, a fee he is “jointly and severally liable” for with others who participated in the attack.
He faces a maximum of 10 years in federal prison. A sentencing hearing has not been scheduled. Guzner is a student who participated in, but did not organize, the attacks, said his attorney, Jeffrey Chabrowe, of The Branch Law Firm in New York.
The attacks, which at times rendered Scientology’s website unreachable, were said to be in retaliation for its misuse of copyright and trademark law in censorship of criticism against the church. The DDoS attacks, which take websites offline by bombarding them with more traffic than they can handle, were largely unsophisticated brute force, floods, security experts have said.
Guzner was tracked down by the US Secret Service, the FBI, the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. The US Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles is prosecuting the case.
Guzner, a Verona, New Jersey resident, has agreed to plead guilty to the felony count, according to a plea agreement he signed yesterday. The agreement estimates that the Church of Scientology suffered losses of between $30,000 and $70,000 as a result of the Internet attack.