Wisconsin man sentenced in Kansas for participating in Anonymous DDoS attack on Koch Industries

A Wisconsin man has been sentenced to two years federal probation and ordered to pay $183,000 in restitution for taking part in a cyber-attack on Koch Industries in Wichita that was sponsored by the collective  known as Anonymous. U.S. Attorney Barr Grissom made the announcement yesterday.

Eric J. Rosol, 38, Black Creek, Wis., pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of accessing a protected computer. In his plea, he admitted that on Feb. 28, 2011, he took part in a distributed denial of service attack on a Web page of Wichita-based Koch Industries – Kochind.com. Rosol used LOIC (Low Orbit Ion Cannon Code) software, which was loaded on his compute and took part in the attack for approximately one minute. The coordinated attack that had been organized by Anonymous as part of #OpWisconsin to protest Koch Industries’ backing the state’s union cuts caused Kochind.com to go offline for approximately 15 minutes.Later on, many of those who participated in such attacks thinking their identity would be protected by the software learned that they were traceable.

As a result of the attacks that day and the previous day, Koch Industries hired a consulting group to protect its Web sites at a cost of approximately $183,000.

Rosol had been charged in March (indictment) and pleaded guilty in September.  Prior to sentencing, the parties had agreed that the cost of the attack attributed to the defendant’s attack was less than $5,000, yet Rosol seems to have been hit with the responsibility for the full cost of their security improvements in the judge’s sentencing.

If he hadn’t pleaded guilty, we might have seen a test of whether a DDoS attack constitutes “accessing” a protected computer under CFAA. Some have argued that such attacks are comparable to brick-and-mortar physical protests where people mass by a store making it difficult for anyone to enter the store. In this case, this clearly seemed to have been a politically motivated protest, but was this DDoS really “hacking” as defined under CFAA?

Material in this post includes material provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Kansas

Update/Correction: Orin Kerr pointed out to me that CFAA has a provision for charging people for sending code or a command with the intent to damage a computer. That was the provision Rosol was charged under, and not the kind of “hacking” we might think of in terms of gaining access to a server.

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