Thomas A. Johnson, age 24, of Boone, North Carolina, pleaded guilty Wednesday to directing a distributed denial of service (“DDoS”) attack that disrupted internet access for thousands of Plattsburgh-area internet customers. The announcement was made by United States Attorney Carla B. Freedman and Janeen DiGuiseppi, Special Agent in Charge of the Albany Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
DDoS attacks target websites and online services. The attacker causes the targeted server or network to be overwhelmed by more internet traffic than the server or network can typically accommodate, which renders the affected server or network inoperable for a period of time until service can be restored.
As part of his misdemeanor guilty plea, Johnson admitted to intentionally causing damage to a protected computer on March 2, 2016, by orchestrating a DDoS attack intended to knock a Plattsburgh-area user off the internet while the two were playing an internet-based video game, after Johnson believed the target had insulted him. In addition to disrupting the intended target’s internet access, Johnson’s actions impacted all of the users of the target’s internet network.
Sentencing is scheduled for December 20, 2021 in Albany before United States Magistrate Judge Daniel J. Stewart. Johnson faces a maximum statutory penalty of 1 year in prison, as well as a fine of up to $100,000, and a term of supervised release of up to a year. A defendant’s sentence is imposed by a judge based on the particular statute the defendant is charged with violating, the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other factors.