One of the founding members of Lizard Squad — the hacker group that brought down PlayStation Network over the 2014 holidays, has pleaded guilty in federal court and faces an active jail sentence of more than two years.
Zachary Buchta admitted in a plea agreement that he was one of Lizard Squad’s founders, along with another hacker group called PoodleCorp. Both sold services offering to harrass people online with “phone bombs” and other harassing calls.
Buchta’s guilty plea appears not to involve the 2014 attacks on PlayStation Network or Xbox Live, among several notorious incidents involving Lizard Squad over the course of five months, before it faded out. Also that year, Lizard Squad claimed responsibility for a phony bomb threat that diverted an American Airlines flight carrying John Smedley, at the time president of Sony Online Entertainment. After Smedley’s division was spun off as Daybreak Games, Lizard Squad continued to target the company’s servers with denial-of-service attacks.
Buchta’s case instead involved a harassment-for-hire service in which a page he’d set up, “phonebomber.net” would, for $20, flood a phone number with recorded messages.
Buchta pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit damage to protected computers. That charge carries a potential sentence of 10 years in prison. However, assuming Buchta works with federal investigators — whom he once called “losers” in an online screen name — prosecutors will recommend he do only 2 1/2 years in a federal penitentiary.
Another member of Lizard Squad, a Finnish teenager named Julius Kivimaki, was convicted in Finland in July 2015 on charges related to more than 50,000 instances of cybercrime. One of them involved the “swatting” of an American victim. Swatting is when a false emergency is called into local authorities, who send a heavily armed response to the victim’s address.
Smedley, in a tirade on Reddit naming Kivimaki specifically, said he had been swatted multiple times. Kivimaki was given a two-year suspended sentence by the Finnish courts.
Buchta was charged in Chicago because one of Lizard Squad’s harassment victims was from that area. While the case was pending, Buchta, 20, was allowed to live with his mother in Fallston, Maryland.