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Operator of 'DownThem' DDoS Attack Service Convicted

An Illinois man who operated an infamous online service allowing users to launch distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on selected targets was found guilty of three felonies.

The man, Matthew Gatrel, 32, of St. Charles, was convicted for operating the DownThem “booting” service, through which subscribers would pay to have their targets of choice flooded with unwanted traffic that would disable or slow down computers.

Gatrel also owned and operated AmpNode.com, a “bulletproof” service that allowed paying customers to host “spoofing” servers pre-configured with scripts to facilitate DDoS attacks. The servers also contained lists of vulnerable “attack amplifiers” that were abused to target victims.

DownThem had over 2,000 registered users and is believed to have been responsible for more than 200,000 launched attacks. Subscribers employed the service to target home users, municipal and local government websites, schools and universities, and financial institutions globally.

The booting service itself used the powerful servers of the AmpNode bulletproof hosting service. Other AmpNode customers also operated for-profit DDoS services, the United States Department of Justice says.

Gatrel provided customers with technical guidance on launching attacks and bypassing DDoS protection services. He also used the DownThem service to demonstrate its capabilities to prospective customers.

DownThem provided customers with various subscription plans, differentiated by cost, based on attack capability. Users could select the attack duration and power and could even launch simultaneous attacks.

Gatrel was convicted on three counts: unauthorized impairment and conspiracy to commit unauthorized impairment of a protected computer, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Facing up to 35 years in prison, he will be sentenced on January 27, 2022.

DownThem was seized in December 2018, when the U.S. announced charges against Gatrel. One month later, authorities announced that they had started tracking the users of this and other DDoS-for-hire services.

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