At approximately 7:00 a.m. yesterday morning, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) raided a dorm in Towers Hall to serve a search warrant to a student allegedly involved in Operation Payback, a set of coordinated cyber attacks launched against the websites of institutions that denied financial services to the WikiLeaks group, which released hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables online.
A variety of electronic equipment, including computers and peripheral storage devices, were confiscated from Zhiwei Chen, a first-year CmpE major to whom the warrant was served.
In a post made yesterday on the social news website Reddit.com, Chen confirmed that the raid had indeed occurred that morning.
“FBI had a warrant to take all my electronics. They came in the dorm room bustin in @7:00, and pushed everyone out of bed. They searched the place and questioned all people involved,” Chen wrote in the post.
Chen also claims to have been affiliated with the group that carried out the attacks.
“I was a passive admin for Operation Payback and quit early to avoid complications with the law, but it seems the FBI has gotten the better of me,” Chen wrote.
Before his account was deleted, Chen offered more details surrounding the situation. Upon request, he posted a copy of the search warrant and the identity of the FBI agent who executed the search. He also stated that he never participated in the Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, but confirmed that he was an administrator on the Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel used to coordinate the operations.
DDoS refers to a technique used by the activists to disable computer networks by flooding them with useless commands and information, denying service to those who wish to legitimately access them.
The FBI executed more than 40 search warrants yesterday in the United States as part of its ongoing investigation into Operation Payback. In addition, the UK’s Metropolitan Police Service executed additional search warrants and arrested five people in connection with the group. According to the FBI, anyone involved in executing or facilitating a DDoS attack faces up to 10 years in prison and can be exposed to civil liability.