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FBI smokes out "Coolio" in computer attacks probe

Denial of Service

March 2, 2000
Web posted at: 8:12 p.m. EST (0112 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The home of a 17-year-old boy in New Hampshire was recently raided by the FBI in its investigation of last month's attacks on major Web sites such as Amazon and Yahoo!, sources familiar with the case said Thursday.

The boy, who goes by the name "Coolio," had his computer equipment confiscated and was questioned by authorities, the sources said.


The name "Coolio" has been identified by private security investigators at Stanford University and Kroll O'Gara, a security firm, as behind the initial denial of service attacks.

However, there are a number of "Coolio"s in the Internet world, and the FBI is systematically investigating each of them.

The February attacks were directed toward a number of popular Web sites, including Yahoo!, Amazon, ZDNet, E*Trade and Several computers were discovered as compromised and used in the attacks, including ones at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Stanford University, and home business computers in Oregon.

The FBI continues to investigate whether the New Hampshire teen was involved in the denial of service attacks, but thus far does not have the evidence to prove it, sources said. Authorities suspect the boy in other minor Web defacement attacks.

He has not been arrested.

Sources, including a friend of the boy, tell that the 17-year-old New Hampshire Coolio has accepted responsiblity for the defacement of part of the RSA Security Web site.

RSA Security is a leading maker of Internet e-commerce encryption technology. The defaced site was signed "Coolio."

Defacement of a Web site is a crime, albeit not nearly as destructive as a denial of service attack. Both would fall under Title 18 of the United States Code covering damage to a computer "used in interstate or foreign commerce." The maximum penalty under the law is 10 years in prison and twice the gross monetary loss to the victims. The Web sites that fell victim to the February attacks claimed several million dollars in lost revenue and advertising income.

Joel de la Garza, a network security expert for Kroll O'Gara, said the person who broke into the RSA Security site used the same tactic as the one used to enter a computer at Stanford University that was later used in a distributed denial of service attack against Yahoo!.

In a distributed denial of service attack, a computer is flooded with messages from many sources in an attempt to make it inaccessible to legitimate users.

This same attack was used against a nameserver in Russia belonging to a tourism company, de la Garza said.

A spokesman for the Russian firm confirmed that the computer was the target of an attack, but could not provide any technical data.

De la Garza said that the New Hampshire Coolio, a regular in an Internet Relay Chat room called "#Goonies," took responsibility for the RSA Security defacement and also knew exactly when the Amazon attack began, before it was reported in the news media.

Every FBI field office has been involved in the investigation, and authorities have received leads from Internet companies and the hacker community.

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FBI Home Page
RSA Security Inc.
Stanford University
National Infrastructure Protection Center: CyberNotes
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