FBI Bust Indian Student for Conducting DDoS Attacks on a Chat Site

26-year old Sharma used Xtreme Fire botnet to disrupt the operations of Chatango chat service.

Young hackers are creating quite a lot of trouble for the US cyber security agencies lately. To eradicate the threat, a multinational operation was carried out by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Europol for capturing young, impatient hackers. During the operation, a science student of Indian origin was also arrested.

According to reports, the student Sean Krishanmakoto Sharma was arrested for targeting a chat site and attacking it with DDoS attacks. On Monday, Sharma was produced before Judge Alka Sagar, federal Magistrate in Los Angeles, and was released on a $100,000 bail bond.

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The federal prosecutor for Northern California Brian Stretch stated that Sharma was arrested for using a DDoS (distributed denial of service) tool to disrupt the computer network of a chat service provider firm based in San Francisco. The company, which has been identified in court documents as Chatango, provides chat services to other firms. The accused conducted the attacks between November 2014 and January 2015.

DDoS is a type of cyber-attack in which the attacker bombards computers of the targeted website or server with bogus requests. These requests are in such high numbers that the system paralyzes due to an overload of traffic. To flood the computers with fake requests, botnets are used by the attackers. Botnets could be viruses and/or programs that automatically sent disruptive requests to servers. Afterward, the attacker secretly implants Trojans in other users’ computer and continues the attack. For example, Mirai botnet that was used during Internet’s largest 1Tbps DDoS attack on OVH hosting and the one on DYN’s DNS that took Twitter, PayPal and several other Internet giants offline.

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In this particular case, the 26-year old Sharma utilized Xtreme Fire botnet to disrupt the operations of Chatango. Sharma was arrested by the FBI from La Canada in California State on Friday. Sharma is a graduate student currently enrolled at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

According to the FBI, Sharma’s arrest was a result of a collaborative anti-cybercrime operation. This operation involved teams from 11 European countries and Australia apart from the US. The European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) at The Hague in the Netherlands coordinated the operation.

This operation was carried out over a five days period during which around 34 individuals were arrested. The operation started on December 5th. The FBI did not reveal much information about who the other arrested hackers were or what were their nationalities or the location of arrest. However, the bureau did disclose that a majority of the arrested hackers were below the age of 20.

“While the FBI is working with our international partners to apprehend and prosecute sophisticated cyber criminals, we also want to deter the young from starting down this path.” said Steve Kelly, FBI unit chief, International Cyber Crime Coordination Cell (IC4)

EC3 head Steven Wilson stated that “low-level fringe cybercrime” is attracting the attention of a large number of young computer enthusiasts but they aren’t fully aware of the dire consequences such notorious acts could lead to.

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“One of the key priorities of law enforcement should be to engage with these young people to prevent them from pursuing a criminal path, helping them understand how they can use their skills for a more constructive purpose,” stated Wilson.

Written by Waqas

Waqas Amir is a Milan-based cybersecurity journalist with a passion for covering latest happenings in cyber security and tech world. In addition to being the founder of this website, Waqas is also into gaming, reading and investigative journalism.