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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Ohio

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Akron man pleaded guilty to launching denial of service attacks that shut down web sites for the city of Akron and the Akron Police Department

An Akron man pleaded guilty to launching denial of service attacks that shut down web sites for the city of Akron and the Akron Police Department.

James Robinson, 33, is scheduled to be sentenced July 1. He pleaded guilty to damaging protected computers.

According to court documents filed in the case:

Servers hosting web sites belonging to the city of Akron were victims of an active distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on Aug. 1, 2017. Two website domains appeared to be the target of the attacks: akronohio.gov and akroncops.org.

The DDoS attack ultimately overwhelmed the web sites with network traffic and rendered them unavailable to users.

A tweet that same day from @AkronPhoenix420 took credit for targeting the Akron web sites, including a link to a youtube video and a screenshot showing akronohio.gov was not accessible. The tweet included hashtags #Anonymous and #TangoDown.

The video showed a static image of an individual in a Guy Fawkes mask making statements including “it’s time we teach the law a lesson,” “Akron PD abuses the law” and “this week the city of Akron experienced system failures on multiple domains including their emergency TCP ports.”

The subsequent investigation identified attacks coming from an Internet connection registered to James Robinson and that Robinson’s phone was associated with the Twitter account @AkronPhoenix420.

@AkronPhoenix420 also claimed credit for many other DDoS attacks including many in 2018 that bore similar characteristics to the Akron attacks. Targets of those attacks web site domains and servers hosted by the Ohio Department of Public Safety, the National Institutes of Health, the Defense Information Security Agency, the Department of Defense, the Department of Treasury and others. Multiple DDoS attacks have been claimed by AkronPhoenix420, including many in 2018.

Law enforcement authorities got a search warrant for Robinson’s house on Edison Avenue in Akron in May 2018. Agents located a Guy Fawkes mask and a cell phone with a cracked screen similar to a phone seen in tweets by @AkronPhoenix420. Robinson stated he was responsible for the DDoS attacks against the Department of Defense, city of Akron and others, according to court documents.

This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Defense Criminal Investigative Services, Akron Police Department, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Treasury. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Om Kakani and Daniel J. Riedl.

Topic(s): 
Cyber Crime
Component(s): 
Contact: 
Mike Tobin 216.622.3651 michael.tobin@usdoj.gov
Updated March 6, 2019