Dmitriy Guzner, 19, of Verona, New Jersey was sentenced to one year in prison for launching distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against websites belonging to the Church of Scientology in January 2008. Following his release, the young DDoSer will also spend two years on probation.
According to the prosecutors Guzner's attacks were acts of hacktivism and part of a larger anti-Scientology campaign led by a hacking group called Anonymous. In October 2008, the hacker became the first Anonymous member ever to be charged in connection with the group's actions.
Anonymous is believed to have originated on the notorious /b/ forum board of the 4chan website, the birthplace of many Internet memes, including lolcats. The members of this board are known as Internet trolls with a questionable sense of humor, who sometimes harass celebrities or other groups.
But the attacks against the Church of Scientology were much more than simple Internet pranks and escalated into a full-blown hate campaign. According to the attacked organization, Anonymous' actions consisted of 8,139 threatening phone calls, 3.6 million e-mails, 141 million hits on its website, ten acts of vandalism against its property, 22 bomb threats, and eight death threats against Church leaders.
Dmitriy Guzner pleaded guilty in May 2009 and admitted to intentionally impairing a protected computer belonging to the Church of Scientology. He faced a maximum of ten years in federal prison, but under sentencing guidelines, the final penalty was expected to be between 12 and 18 months.
Last week, the 19-year-old hacker was sentenced to 366 days in prison, followed by two years of probation. He was also ordered to pay $37,500 in reparatory damages, even though the Church of Scientology claimed it cost $119,500 to repair the damages caused by Guzner.
"It's well known that many people are concerned by the Scientology movement [...], but both Scientologists and the Anti-Scientology movement have sometimes done themselves damage by the way they have carried themselves on the internet. As I've said before, though, Even if you feel passionately and earnestly that Scientology is harmful to society, it does not make illegal action (such as an internet attack) against them acceptable," Graham Cluley, commented.
Hacktivism is a common form of protest on the Internet and Denial of Service is one of the preferred weapons in this business. Some of the times things can really get out of control, as it happened in 2007 when a Russian cyber-mob took down the entire Internet infrastructure in Estonia because the country's government decided to relocate a World Word II soviet memorial monument.
The world has not heard the last from Anonymous either. In September, the group declared war on the Australian Federal Government and its Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd for their intention of installing a country-wide Internet filter.