Federal prosecutors have charged a 22-year-old Bellevue, Ohio, man with launching a series of Internet attacks against conservative Web sites, including those of Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter and Rudy Giuliani.
According to court filings, Mitchell Frost launched the distributed denial of service attacks from a 'botnet' network of hacked computers he controlled between March 7 and March 12, 2007. Frost is also accused of using his botnet to steal information including usernames, passwords and credit card numbers from compromised computers.
He was charged Friday on one count each of damaging a protected computer system and possessing unauthorized access devices.
Frost was a first-year student at the University of Akron at the time of the attacks and allegedly used the school's computer network to access the botnet, built up between August 2006 and March 2007. Federal agents raided Frost's dorm room on March 28, 2007, about three weeks after the attacks, and found nearly 3,000 illegally obtained usernames and passwords, court filings state.
The attacks occurred as interest was starting to build for the 2008 presidential election, and one of Frost's alleged targets was the Joinrudy2008.com Web site used to promote Giuliani's presidential campaign.
Another alleged victim was the University of Akron itself, which had its computer network knocked offline for eight-and-a-half hours on March 14, 2007. "Frost apparently did not attack the University of Akron specifically, but rather intended to attack a gaming server which happened to be housed within the University of Akron network," court filings state. It cost the university more than US$10,000 to clean up the mess.
Prosecutors say that Frost launched five separate attacks against Billoreilly.com, an onslaught that ultimately forced administrators there to take the site offline in order to deal with the issue.
"The FBI did a great job investigating this cybercrime investigation, and we thank them very much," O'Reilly said during the Monday edition of his show, according to a transcript of the broadcast.
Although Frost has pled not guilty to the charges, "he is very remorseful for his actions," said his public defender, Carlos Warner, in an e-mail interview Tuesday.
"Mitch presents a very sad case," Warner said. "Many young people act foolishly during their first months of college and Mitch is not an exception."
"In the past 3 years I have watched him mature far beyond his years," he added. "He has pieced his life back together after his arrest. He now has a young family and is expecting his first child. He is working full time and is also getting a college degree."
"We hope the eventual resolution of this matter will bring some satisfaction to his victims and also allow Mitch to continue on the responsible course he has charted for himself," Warner said.