An engineer with the microblogging website Twitter is one of a dozen suspected of helping the hacking collective Anonymous engage in a retaliatory campaign against the websites of Visa, MasterCard, Paypal and others two years ago.
Ryan Russell Gubele, 28, of Seattle was one of 13 individuals indicted last week for allegedly participating in “Operation Payback,” a campaign orchestrated by the underground hacking collective Anonymous. The campaign targeted anti-piracy groups and financial organizations in late 2010.
“Operation Payback” was formed by Anonymous after after several entertainment companies hired an online service called Apilex Software to send large amounts of traffic to websites suspected of pirating videos, music and other copyrighted media. Aiplex Software hoped the campaign, known as a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, would cripple or disable the suspected pirate websites.
Using the same tactic, Anonymous hoped to compromise the website of Aiplex Software using a tool called LOIC (“Low Orbit Ion Cannon”) that sends a massive amount of internet traffic to a website in a short amount of time. Anonymous targeted the websites of groups strongly opposed to internet piracy, including websites belonging to the Recording Industry Artists of America and the British Phonographic Industry. Law firms that represented or advised anti-piracy groups were also targeted by Anonymous.
Weeks later, “Operation Payback” would shift to focus on financial merchants and others that had stopped providing services to the whistleblower website Wikileaks.
The indictment accuses Gubele of accessing the computer systems of one “Operation Payback” target. During his alleged time with Anonymous, Gubele was an employee of Amazon.com, whose website was targeted as part of “Operation Payback.” According to his LinkedIn profile, Gubele left Amazon.com the same month Anonymous concluded “Operation Payback.”
Federal authorities claim Gubele used the handle “grishnav” during his alleged time with Anonymous. The Desk found several social media profiles used by a person called “grishnav,” including at least one that contains a photograph of a man resembling Gubele. A video uploaded to YouTube by a person called “grishnav” claims to show protesters at a 2007 political rally in Seattle where Gubele was a resident. The video has since been removed.
Gubele held two other IT jobs before landing a job as a site stability engineer at Twitter in June of this year. A Twitter spokesperson confirmed to The Desk that Gubele was employed by the site, but declined to say if he was still working there.
Last week, federal officials took Gubele into custody after he was indicted by a grand jury on one charge of conspiring to cause damage to a protected computer. Gubele was arraigned and released on $100,000 bail.
Last week’s indictment was the third time federal authorities have charged a large group of suspected Anonymous members for alleged participation in cyber attacks against companies. In 2011, prosecutors in San Jose, California filed charges against fourteen individuals suspected of targeting Paypal as a part of the “Operation Payback” campaign.
In another case, a hacker who agreed to cooperate with the FBI upon his arrest in July 2011 led to the arrest of five other suspected Anonymous members the following March. The hacker, Hector Xavier “Sabu” Monsegur, plead guilty to several computer-related offenses in early 2012. Monsegur, who is presumed to still be cooperating with authorities, has yet to be sentenced.
Document: Read the unsealed grand jury indictment