An 18-year-old New Jersey man will plead guilty to the January online attacks that took down the Church of Scientology‘s Web site, federal prosecutors said Friday.
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.
The attacks began Jan. 19 and managed to knock the Scientology.org Web site offline by hitting it with several bursts of unwanted Internet traffic. The attack, known as a distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack, flooded the site with as much as 220M bps of traffic, according to computer security firm Arbor Networks. That’s considered to be a decent-sized DDOS attack and was enough to disable the Web site temporarily.
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.
This isn’t the first time Anonymous has been connected to a high-profile hacking incident. Last month the group claimed credit for accessing Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s Yahoo e-mail account and posting some of its contents online. A 20-year-old college student named David Kernell was charged last week in that case.