Charges in cyber attack

Computer hacker group has local ties

A 65-year-old man identified as a Hancock resident was charged last week in a federal district court in Virginia with conspiracy to intentionally cause damage to a protected computer.

According to an indictment handed down in U.S. District Court for the eastern district of Virginia, Geoffrey K. Commander of Hancock is among 13 people who were part of a campaign called Operation Payback, run by the online computer hacker group known as Anonymous, that targeted cyber attacks against a number of websites, including the Recording Industry Association of America, the Motion Picture Association of America, the Library of Congress, Visa, MasterCard and American Express. The group allegedly decided what websites to target and publicized Internet Protocol addresses and dates and times for other members of Anonymous to send irrelevant Internet traffic to the websites.

Commander specifically is charged, along with five others, with participating in an attack on the MasterCard website in December 2010. Commander, using the alias “bipto” and the others allegedly used a widely available network stress testing program know as the Low Orbit Ion Cannon, as the court document reads, “to flood the website of MasterCard with requests in an effort to make the website inoperable.”

It’s unclear how effective the attack was. According to the indictment, MasterCard suffered at least $5,000 in losses during a one-year period as a result of the attack.

A request for a warrant to arrest Commander was filed on Sept. 30 by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Commander lived on High Street in Hancock at one time, Town Administrator Barbara Caverly said on Monday. Caverly was not sure if he still lives there. He is not listed as a registered voter in Hancock.

In January 2011, Hancock police assisted FBI agents who executed a search warrant and seized several computers at a High Street residence. Commander was not identified by name at the time of that seizure, which the FBI said, according to a press release issued at the time, was “part of an ongoing investigation into recent coordinated cyber attacks against major companies and organizations.”

The call to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Virginia requesting comment on the indictment was not returned by press time Monday.

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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