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Image credit: Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune

Lizard Squad's founding member pleads guilty to cyber-crimes

The 20-year-old ran the hacker-for-hire group known for extortion and harassment.
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Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune

A 20-year-old has pleaded guilty in a Chicago federal court to launching cyberattacks and harassment campaigns as a founding member of the hacker-for-hire groups Lizard Squad and PoodleCorp, according to the Chicago Tribune. Between them, the two outfits knocked both the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live offline in 2014, took down the UK's National Crime Agency website the following year, and breached thousands of CCTV cameras for DOS attacks against companies.

Zachary Buchta -- the latest of the ragtag bunch to get arrested -- is staring down a recommended two-and-a-half-year jail stint, after agreeing to a plea agreement that will see him cooperate with the prosecutors' investigation. If he doesn't play nice, Buchta could be locked up for up to ten years for one count of conspiracy to commit damage to protected computers.

In addition, he must pony up $350,000 in restitution to two online gambling companies that he helped to target. Another member of the group is being indicted by authorities in the Netherlands. The charges form part of an international investigation, and are among the first in the US against alleged Lizard Squad members.

The 61-page complaint claims Buchta and the Dutch co-defendant operated websites (including one dubbed "phoneBomber.net") where customers could pay as little as $20 to have someone harassed through spoofed phone numbers. The victims would then receive hourly calls containing the same expletive-laden message. One person, who lived in the Chicago area, was the target of these calls for 30 straight days. The crew also sold stolen payment card info and hacked Taylor Swift's Twitter profile.

Buchta and his Dutch counterpart aren't the first Lizard Squad members to be arrested. In 2015, a 17-year-old affiliate of the group was convicted for a slew of computer crimes in Finland and sentenced to two years in prison.

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