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Journalism student faces 15 years for alleged ‘Anonymous’ hacktivism

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A journalism student at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas who used the online alias “No” and “MMMM” faces 15 years in prison and $500,000 in fines if she is convicted of hacking charges related to the group “Anonymous.”

The Rebel Yell reported that the FBI arrested 20-year-old Mercedes Renee Haefer last week for allegedly participating in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against PayPal’s website.

In a campaign known as “Operation Payback,” members of “Anonymous” succeeded in taking down the online operations of PayPal, MasterCard Worldwide, Visa, Swiss bank PostFinance and others after the companies dropped their financial services to WikiLeaks.

According to an FBI affidavit obtained by The Smoking Gun, federal agents launched an investigation into the attacks against PayPal in early December, after the company contacted the agency. PayPal provided the FBI with eight Internet protocol (IP) addresses that were hosting an Internet relay chat (IRC) site used by “Operation Payback” to organize attacks.

The DDoS attacks against PayPal violated federal laws against “unauthorized and knowing transmission of code or commands resulting in intentional damage to a protected computer system,” according to the FBI. The attacks flood websites with meaningless web traffic to slow them down and can sometimes knock websites offline entirely.

Haefer was one of 14 individuals arrested nationwide for participating in the attacks against PayPal. She faces a charge of conspiracy to “commit Intentional Damage to a Protected Computer” and for alleged damage caused by the attack.

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In all FBI agents made 35 raids across the US as part of a probe into “coordinated cyber attacks against major companies and organizations,” the FBI said, adding that to date more than 75 searches have been carried out.

Anonymous, an international hackers group, rose to fame with a series of attacks on websites linked to the Church of Scientology.

The group gained further prominence after launching retaliatory attacks on companies perceived to be enemies of the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks.

Anonymous sabotaged Turkish sites also last month to protest against Internet censorship.

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After the December attacks US federal investigators followed a trail to Europe, Canada and back to the United States as they hunted down hackers who targeted “perceived corporate enemies of WikiLeaks.”

The FBI traced Internet protocol addresses for the hackers to Canada and then back to California where a virtual server that was assigned one of the IP addresses used to launch the attacks was housed, media reports said.

A separate German probe into the pro-WikiLeaks attacks found that other commands to launch denial of service attacks on PayPal had come from an IP address assigned to a Texas-based company that hosts servers.

The FBI stressed that the arrests were part of an “ongoing” investigation.

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“Today’s operational activities were done in coordination with the Metropolitan Police Service in the United Kingdom and the Dutch National Police Agency,” said the US statement.

“The FBI thanks the multiple international, federal and domestic law enforcement agencies who continue to support these operations,” it said.

With AFP.

Report typos and corrections to [email protected].
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Senator Elizabeth Warren leads Democrats in spirited first 2020 debate

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Ten Democrats clashed in the first debate of the 2020 presidential race Wednesday with Elizabeth Warren cementing her status as a top-tier candidate and several underdogs using the issue of immigration to clamor for the limelight.

The biggest American political debate since the 2016 presidential campaign is occurring over two nights in Miami, climaxing Thursday with former vice president Joe Biden squaring off against nine challengers, including number two candidate Bernie Sanders.

But Wednesday's first take was a spirited encounter between Democrats like ex-congressman Beto O'Rourke, Senator Cory Booker, former San Antonio mayor Julian Castro and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on subjects as varied as health care, economic inequality, climate action, gun violence, Iran and immigration.

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Here are 4 winners and 9 losers from the first 2020 Democratic primary debate

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With ten candidates on stage Wednesday, the opening debate of the 2020 Democratic primary in Miami was a packed mess. And this was only the first course in a two-part event — 10 more candidates will debate on the following night.

A crowded field makes it difficult to stand out, and that means that even after a big night like a debate, the most likely result is that not much changes. But the debate was still significant, giving candidates the chance to exceed, meet, or fall below expectations for their performances.

Here's a list — necessarily subjective, of course — of the people who came out on the top when the dust was settled, and those who came out on the bottom.

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Here are 3 ways Julián Castro stood out in the first Democratic Debate

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There were many predictions going into the first Democratic debate on MSNBC, but no one predicted that Julián Castro would break out from the crowd.

Check out the top three ways Castro stood out from the crowd.

Immigration:

The former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development was the outright winner of the immigration section of the debate

It should "piss us all off," Castro said about the father and his little girl who were found face-down in the shores of the Rio Grande River this week. “It’s heartbreaking."

Castro is a second generation American who got into specifics on immigration policy, calling for an outright "Marshall Plan" style of action for Guatemala and Honduras. He joined with other Democrats calling for an end to President Donald Trump's family separation policy, but he then suggested ending the "metering" of legitimate asylum seekers.

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