Computer programmer Bruce Raisley waged a one-man-war against his perceived enemies on the Internet, but ultimately was forced to surrender to the FBI as reported by the New Jersey Star-Ledger.
“His actions were alarming in that he chose to attack third party websites when he didn’t like their content,” says Assistant U.S. Attorney Erez Liebermann. “It’s one thing for him to be unhappy with a website. It’s another thing for him to attack third parties that have not done anything, which causes damage on the side of the victim companies and on the side of any affected computer” quoted Wired News.
Raisley, whom Liebermann says works for HSBC in Pennsylvania, faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He was released on a $100,000 unsecured bond and is restricted to using his home computer for work purposes only. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 20.
Raisley 47, specifically attacked both Rolling Stone and Radar magazines, Carnegie Mellon University, the Ross Institute of New Jersey (sponsor of CultNews) and reportedly at least six other targets.
The Ross Institute was first attacked during April of 2007 and the attacks continued almost daily for approximately one year. Raisley’s mode of offense was what is called a Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attack.
A DDOS attack is an ongoing effort to sabotage a Web site server by saturating it with so many requests for information that it cannot effectively respond to normal traffic. The objective is to either crash the server completely or slow it down to the point of being barely functional.
DDOS attackers rely upon malicious software to construct and control a “botnet,” which is made up of computers infected with a virus that causes them to respond like robots to commands as part of a network.
Raisley controlled just such a botnet that included thousands of infected computers, largely located in Eastern Europe.
Why was Bruce Raisley willing to spend so much of his time and energy to criminally attack Web site servers?
Because each Web site he attacked contained embarrassing information about a sting that caught the computer programmer by surprise.
As reported first by Radar Magazine in an article titled “Strange Bedfellows” by John Cook and later by Rolling Stone in its report “‘To Catch a Predator’: The New American Witch Hunt for Dangerous Pedophiles,” Bruce Raisley was first a supporter and then became an outspoken critic of an Internet vigilante group known as “Perverted Justice” (PJ).
PJ is most known as the catalyst behind the controversial TV show “To Catch A Predator” presented through NBC Dateline.
Raisley threatened to harass and expose PJ members.
But Von Erck decided to get Raisley first. He then employed essentially the same entrapment methods he has used to expose Internet sexual predators, to go after Bruce Raisley.
Von Erck pretended to be a girl named “Holly.”
Through the Internet Von Erck posing as Holly and Raisley began and continued a romantic relationship, which included having cybersex twice.
Raisley was apparently ready to divorce his wife and break up his family for Holly, expecting his Internet lover to move in with him.
The computer programmer came to an airport ready to finally meet his cyberspace sweetheart in person.
But instead of finding Holly, Raisley was confronted by a Von Erck operative who snapped his picture.
After that every sordid detail was posted online by PJ with this warning:
“[W]hen you attempt to threaten members of Perverted-Justice.com… this can happen to you. Tonight, Bruce Raisley stood around at an airport, flowers in hand, waiting for a woman that turned out to be a man. He’s not in love. He has destroyed his relationship with his wife, he has denigrated her, and he has betrayed all those around him. He has no one. He has no more secrets. We at Perverted-Justice.com will only tolerate so much in the way of threats and attacks upon us.”
Later Von Erck said that the whole “head game that was played with [Raisley] was only done in order to ‘knock him out’ so to speak.”
Bruce Raisley may have been down, but he was not out.
As the news of his humiliation traveled through the Internet and reports were archived and/or cited at various sites including the Ross Institute, Bruce Raisley evolved into his own brand of Internet vigilante. But his crusade would be a selfish one exclusively focused upon protecting his name.
The computer programmer turned his skill to attacking Web sites that included any mention of the PJ sting.
For a time Raisley’s strategy worked.
Radar removed its article from the Web rather than endure the costs incurred through endless DDOS attacks. And some smaller sites were simply shut down by their Internet Service Providers (ISP) that discontinued service rather than deal with the inconvenience and disruption that Raisley caused.
PRQ is an ISP that has a history of standing firm against legal threats and/or DDOS attacks from would-be Internet censors.
The Ross Institute also greatly benefited from the expertise and tireless energy of system administrator Zenon Panoussis (photo right).
Panoussis is known for his strong stand against Scientology efforts to censor the Web and stifle Internet free speech.
Panoussis devised a series of carefully constructed and ingenious defenses against Raisley’s DDOS attacks, which effectively neutralized them and successfully protected the Ross Institute Web sites.
Meanwhile, he also notified any ISP that included infected and attacking computers. This led to an ongoing cooperation with the Academic and Research Network of Slovenia, which is the base for Slovenia’s Computer Emergency Response Team.
The Slovenians were able to unravel the software virus used by Raisley, which in turn led to identifying him as the perpetrator.
The Ross Institute reported the DDOS attacks to the FBI in New Jersey and Special Agent Susan Secco was assigned to investigate.
Zenon Panoussis provided Agent Secco with documentation.
The Ross Institute notified Radar; Rolling Stone, Carnegie Mellon and others attacked by Raisley.
Through this ongoing network of cooperation more evidence of the DDOS attacks was made available to the FBI.
The net result was a raid at Raisley’s home in March 2008. The FBI found a memory stick and hard drive, which Raisley allegedly admitted contained the software he wrote to conduct DDOS attacks.
Bruce Raisley arguably was a sad victim of Von Erck’s entrapment.
Ironically, if the computer programmer had approached the Ross Institute with concerns about his name appearing within articles at the database, something probably could have been worked out.
Raisley never did that.
Zenon Panoussis warned the computer programmer of the possible consequences of his actions in a phone call months before the FBI raid.
But Raisley’s response was arrogant, indifferent and his attacks continued.
Whatever grievances Bruce Raisley may have had concerning Von Erck’s behavior, that didn’t give him the right to resort to what Weysan Dun, head of the FBI’s Newark office called “cyber-bullying…as a way to try to silence our media and deny them of their constitutional rights to the freedom of press.”