School bomb hoax suspect arrested in US

Los Angeles airportImage copyright

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LA’s airport was one target for the Apophis hacker group

An American man accused of deluging schools and Los Angeles’s airport with hoax bomb threats has been arrested.

Timothy Dalton Vaughn is suspected of being part of the Apophis Squad hacker group that was allegedly behind the pranking spree.

One member of Apophis, Briton George Duke-Cohan, is serving a three-year jail sentence for aiding the attacks.

Clues to Mr Vaughn’s identity emerged when a gaming firm was hacked and user data leaked.

Stolen database

In a lengthy indictment document, Mr Vaughn is accused of conspiring to carry out a series of hack attacks that, say prosecutors, involved:

  • threatening FBI offices with anthrax and Ebola
  • crashing websites
  • defacing webpages
  • spoofing emails
  • sending bomb threats to 2,000 US and 400 UK schools

One fake bomb threat led to a United Airlines jet being quarantined for four hours at San Francisco International Airport as the warning was investigated.

The document said the incidents took place between January and August 2018. The Department of Justice said if Mr Vaughn was convicted of all 11 charges he faced, he could go to jail for 80 years.

Cyber-security expert Brian Krebs, whose digital detective work helped to unmask Duke-Cohan, said the identity of his claimed US conspirator had remained a mystery for some time.

Clues to his identity emerged when the user database from gaming firm Blank Media Games was stolen and made available online.

An email address seen in the stolen data dump resembled one of the aliases Mr Vaughan is alleged to have used, wrote Mr Krebs, and showed that whoever owned that account logged in regularly from North Carolina.

Earlier this week, Mr Vaughan was arrested at his home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.