An American hacker has been sent to prison for carrying out a series of cyber and swatting attacks, including sending bogus threats of shootings and bombings to schools in the United Kingdom and the United States.
North Carolina resident Timothy Dalton Vaughn also called in a false report of an airplane hijacking involving a jetliner traveling from London to San Francisco.
The 22-year-old, known online by the handles “WantedbyFeds” and “Hacker_R_US,” was arrested in February 2019 by special agents with the FBI.
Authorities found that Vaughn had in his possession 200 sexually explicit images and videos depicting children, including at least one toddler.
Vaughn was a member of a worldwide collective of computer hackers and swatters who call themselves the “Apophis Squad.”
The squad caused disruptions by making threatening phone calls, sending false reports of violent school attacks via email, and launching distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on websites.
“Vaughn and others sent emails to at least 86 school districts threatening armed students and explosives,” said the Department of Justice.
“The threatened attacks included the imminent detonation of a bomb made with ammonium nitrate and fuel oil, rocket-propelled grenade heads placed under school buses, and the placement of land mines on sports fields.”
Squad members sometimes reported threats using “spoofed” email addresses to make it appear as though the reports had been sent by innocent parties, including the mayor of London.
Among the squad’s victims was a Long Beach motorsport company whose website hoonigan.com was knocked offline for three days by a DDoS attack. The business received an email demanding a ransom of 1.5 Bitcoin (worth approximately $20,000) to cease the attack.
The Apophis Squad also hacked and defaced the website of a university in Colombia so that site visitors were greeted with the image of Adolf Hitler clutching a sign that read “YOU ARE HACKED.”
In November 2019, Vaughn pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to convey threats to injure, convey false information concerning use of explosive device, and intentionally damage a computer; one count of computer hacking; and one count of possession of child sexual abuse material.
Yesterday, Judge Otis Wright sentenced Vaughn to prison terms of 95 months for the child sexual abuse material possession charge and 60 months for each of the other charges. The terms are to be served concurrently.