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Anonymous members plead guilty in PayPal DDoS attack case

8 December 2013, 8:45 am EST By Anu Passary Tech Times
PayPal  ( Steve Ganz )

Anonymous members have pleaded guilty in the PayPal distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack case.

On Thursday, December 5, members of the hacktivist group Anonymous appeared in a federal court in California to enter a plea pertaining to a three-year old digital protest against PayPal, which will see a sentence hearing on December 4, 2014 in San Jose.

In July 2011, 14 people were charged in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose for a DDoS cyberattack on PayPal's servers in December 2010. A DDoS is an attempt to render a website inaccessible by overloading it with requests that will disrupt the server.

The members of Anonymous waged the attack, dubbed Operation Payback, as a reaction to PayPal's decision to suspend Wikileaks' account with the online billing service. Under the Computer Fraud and Abuse act, the Anonymous members were charged for conspiring to commit "intentional damage to a protected computer."

The defendants admitted to their participation in the act, which led to PayPal going offline momentarily in 2010, pleading guilty before the judge. Eleven of the members pleaded guilty to felony on count of conspiracy and a misdemeanor count of damaging a computer because of a DDoS attack.

According to the prosecutors, defendants used a free computer program called Low Ion Orbit Canon (LOIC) to flood PayPal's servers collectively with plenty of illegal Internet traffic for a week in December, which in turn knocked the website offline and caused PayPal an estimated $5.5 million loss.

A new sentencing is scheduled for December next year.

"Here, at the head of the day if everything works out fine, the defendants are going to get a misdemeanor," said Stanley Cohen, a counsel for one of the defendants. "If there are no new arrests at the end of the year, the felony is dismissed. The misdemeanor is left in piece and people will essentially get conditional discharges at that point with restitution in the amount of $5,600 for each person."

The restitution amount totals to under $80,000 for all 14 defendants, which is barely a fraction of the $5.5 million in damages claimed by PayPal for the disruption.

However, prior to the hearing, PayPal's parent company eBay's founder Pierre Omidyar requested the court to be lenient.

"In my view, they should be facing misdemeanor charges and the possibility of a fine, rather than felony charges and jail time," said Omidyar.

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