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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Utah Man Pleads Guilty to Denial-of-Service Computer Hacking Attacks

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – November 6, 2018

SAN DIEGO – Austin Thompson, a Utah resident, pleaded guilty today in federal court in San Diego, admitting that he carried out a series of denial-of-service (“DoS”) computer hacking attacks against multiple victims between 2013 and 2014. 

A denial-of-service (DoS) attack occurs when legitimate users are unable to access information systems, devices, or other network resources due to the actions of a malicious cyber threat actor.  In such attacks, the hacker floods the targeted host or network with traffic until the target cannot respond or simply crashes, preventing access for legitimate purposes. According to the plea agreement, between December 2013 and January 2014, Thompson’s attacks, which flooded his victims’ servers with enough internet traffic to take them offline, were directed mainly at online gaming companies and servers, including then San Diego-based Sony Online Entertainment.  Thompson typically used the Twitter account @DerpTrolling to announce that an attack was imminent and then posted screenshots or other photos showing that victims’ servers had been taken down after the attack.  The attacks took down game servers and related computers around the world, often for hours at a time.  According to the plea agreement, Thompson’s actions caused at least $95,000 in damages.

“Denial-of-service attacks cost businesses millions of dollars annually,” said U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman.  “We are committed to finding and prosecuting those who disrupt businesses, often for nothing more than ego.”

"In today's world, cyber crime is an immense threat that affects private, commercial, and government sectors alike," said FBI Special Agent in Charge John Brown.  "The FBI's capacity to respond to cyber incidents is enhanced through collaboration with affected industries and partnerships in the community to prevent and combat these threats. Together, we will thwart those cyber criminals who target our communities' businesses and infrastructure."

Sentencing is set before United States District Judge Jeffrey Miller on March 1, 2019 at 9:00 a.m.

The case, which is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Benjamin Katz and John Parmley, arose out of an investigation by FBI’s San Diego Field Office. 

DEFENDANT                                    Case Number  18cr4775JM

Austin Thompson                               Age:    23

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Damage to a Protected Computer, 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(5)(A)

Maximum penalty: 10 years prison, $250,000 fine, 3 years supervised release

AGENCY

Federal Bureau of Investigation – San Diego Field Office

U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations

Topic(s): 
Cyber Crime
Contact: 
Cindy Cipriani (619) 546-9608
Press Release Number: 
CAS18-1106-Thompson
Updated November 6, 2018