Female DDoS Attacker Charged with Crippling School System

A senior female student at Franklin Regional High School was charged by the police for carrying out a series of cyber-attacks on not one or two but more than 12 local school districts.

However, the targets of the 18-year old Michaela Gabriella King’s attack weren’t only schools as the teen also launched attacks against Westmoreland County government and the Catholic Diocese of Greensburg.

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Police have charged the student with the illegal use of a computer and for disrupting a computer system intentionally. The teen was released on signature bond after being charged before Charles Conway, Export District Judge, reports Pittsburgh Tribune.

The matter was brought to light and investigations were started when the supervisor of technology at Franklin Regional, Brad Schrecengost informed the authorities about the possibility of a DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack on the district’s computer system since October 31st.

County detective Paul Burkey and Murrysville Patrolman David Hanko investigated the incident and identified that each attack launched against the district’s computer system lasted for around 10 to 45 minutes. It was also revealed after the investigation that the attack was pretty large-scale as it affected a dozen school districts, Westmoreland County government and the Catholic Diocese of Greensburg. The affected school districts include three career and technology centers of the country, Greensburg Salem, Ligonier Valley, Greater Latrobe, Kiski Area, Jeannette, Burrell, Monessen, Hempfield Area, Greensburg Central Catholic, and Westmoreland Intermediate Unit.

Investigators also noted that school districts, county, and the diocese all used the same Intermediate Unit for availing internet services.

According to the analysis of computer technicians, who were specially hired by Franklin Regional and the police, Gabriella King launched three attacks on the district’s system and she exploited the high school computers for this purpose. Another major attack was launched from the personal device of King such as her cell phone or computer(s) at her residence Mamont Drive house. The BetaBooter program was used by the hacker for launching a series of DDoS attacks.

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In their affidavit, Burkey and Hanko wrote that:

“Even though the target of this attack was the Franklin Regional School District since the attack went through the Intermediate Unit IP, the other organizations were also affected.”

The investigation lasted for around three weeks and during this time, police searched King’s home after obtaining search warrants from Helen Kistler, Harrison City District Judge. While searching her house, the police confiscated at least 8 PCs, tablets, laptops and also King’s cellphone.

It is also identified in the affidavit that King admitted to carrying out the attacks after buying the BetaBooter program via her PayPal account.

The preliminary hearing of the case is due to be held on December 20.

Previous cases of Student attacked their educational institutions

Last year, a student was arrested for hiring a DDoS attacker who targeted West Ada school district, Idaho, US and crippled operations at more than 50 schools in the district for a week. In another incident, two students from San Dimas High School, California, were arrested for hacking their school computer system and change scores of their and other students.

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About a couple of months ago, another student was arrested changing his and his classmates’ grades using his girl friend’s internet connection. If you are a student, avoid indulging yourself in such negative activities.

Agan Uzunovic

Agan Uzunovic is a Bosnian journalist who is working for the country's largest newspaper. He has a keen interest in reporting on activism and hacktivism. He is also a contributor at U.S based Revolution News media. Agan reports and writes for HackRead on IT security related topics.