FBI, US Justice Department shut down subscription-based computer attack platforms that targeted Alaska
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - An Illinois man could spend up to 35 years in federal prison after being convicted on cybercrime charges.
Matthew Gatrel, 32, of St. Charles, Illinois, was found guilty of three felonies on Sept. 16 in California: one count of conspiracy to commit unauthorized impairment of a protected computer, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and one count of unauthorized impairment of a protected computer.
Gatrel operated what federal prosecutors called DDoS, or distributed denial-of-service, attacks around the country, including Alaska. The FBI operators flood targeted computers with information that prevents them from accessing the internet.
“He essentially operated a web store where individuals can visit a website, select a series of attack services they would like, pay for those services,” said FBI Assistant Special Agent Shawn Peters of the Anchorage Field Office. “Those are then executed by Mr. Gotrel’s computers.”
The U.S. Justice Department shut down the website, www.downthem.org, along with 14 others in December 2018. Prosecutors said Gatrel used those sites to commit the DDoS attacks for about 10 years.
“That can really jeopardize access to telemedicine, access to remote education, distance education and just access to the internet in general,” said U.S. Assistant Attorney Adam Alexander, who helped prosecute. “That’s really a significant problem,”
Gatrel is said to have used the attacks to extort money from his victims.
“He made $100,000′s over a comparatively short amount of time,” said Alexander. “And that’s just the financial transactions we’re able to trace.”
The co-defendant in the case, Juan Martinez, 28, of Pasadena, California, pleaded guilty on Aug. 26 to one count of unauthorized impairment of a protected computer. Prosecutors called Martinez one of Gatrel’s customers and became a co-administrator of the “DownThem” website in 2018. He faces a maximum of 10 years in federal prison at his Dec. 2 sentencing.
Meanwhile, another customer, David Bukoski, 23, of Hanover Township, Pennsylvania, is serving five years probation after he pleaded guilty back in August 2019 to charges filed in Alaska of aiding and abetting computer intrusions.
Bukoski operated Quantum Stresser, launched over 50,000 actual or attempted DDOS attacks worldwide, including victims in Alaska and California.
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