The FBI has arrested a hacker for allegedly using cyberattacks to try coerce several international news sites to take down articles about his past criminal convictions.
Kamyar Jahanrakhshan, 32, a US citizen since 1991 based in Seattle, has been charged with launching Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks to intentionally cause damage to a computer.
He allegedly DDoSed the Sydney Morning Herald, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's website CBC News, US-based legal services website Leagle.com, Metro News Canada and the official Government of Canada website Canada.com.
According to the FBI affidavit, in early 2015 Jahanrakhshan allegedly began launching DDoS attacks against the websites, after his repeated requests to have removed links to prior convictions in the US and Canada for credit card fraud, obstruction and second degree theft were not met.
Jahanrakhshan had allegedly even offered to pay the media outlets AUS$500 ($397, £303) in cash to convince them to assist him.
After launching the DDoS attacks, which flooded the news sites with web traffic to deliberately take them offline, Jahanrakhshan sent the media outlets an email, pretending to a member of the hacker collective Anonymous.
In the email, he claimed that Anonymous was DDoSing the websites because the media outlets had "unjustly victimised" him.
"If you do not remove it immediately, more severe attacks will hit your website in the coming days and weeks, and your users will be deprived of your service," the email said.
The DDoS attack worked on Leagle.com, which took the article offline after being attacked on 24 January 2015.
Escalation to bomb threats
However, similar DDoS attacks and follow-up emails to Fairfax Media, Metro News Canada and Canada.com in February 2015 did not have the same outcome, so Jahanrakhshan then escalated to sending emails threatening bomb attacks if the articles were not taken down.
Jahanrakhshan was previously convicted of second degree theft in Washington state in 2005, but this ruling was set aside in August 2011.
Separately, he moved to Canada in 1995 and became a permanent resident in the country, but was deported in 2011 after being convicted on multiple charges, including running a scam to make fake credit cards, and impersonating a police officer to obstruct justice in Canada.
According to latest court documents dated 28 July seen by Ars Technica, Jahanrakhshan has been denied bail by the federal district court in Seattle due to his previous convictions. He is also known to have multiple identities and social security numbers. His trial will start on 14 August.