Federal investigators arrested a Virginia man accused of being part of a National Socialist group that allegedly targeted hundreds of people in "swatting" attacks, krebsonsecurity.com reports.
These are fake bomb threats, hostage situations and other scenarios were phoned in to police as part of a scheme to trick them into visiting potentially deadly force on a target’s address.
In July 2019, KrebsOnSecurity published the story "Neo-Nazi Swatters Target Dozens of Journalists", which detailed the activities of a loose-knit group of individuals who had targeted hundreds of individuals for swatting attacks, including federal judges, corporate executives and almost three-dozen journalists.
An FBI affidavit unsealed this week identifies one member of the group as John William Kirby Kelley. According to the affidavit, Kelley was instrumental in setting up and maintaining the Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel called "Deadnet" that was used by he and other co-conspirators to plan, carry out and document their swatting attacks.
Prior to his recent expulsion on drug charges, Kelley was a student studying cybersecurity at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. Interestingly, investigators allege it was Kelley’s decision to swat his own school in late November 2018 that got him caught. Using the handle "Carl," Kelley allegedly explained to fellow Deadnet members he hoped the swatting would get him out of having to go to class.
The FBI says Kelley used virtual private networking (VPN) services to hide his true Internet location and various voice-over-IP (VoIP) services to conduct the swatting calls. In the ODU incident, investigators say Kelley told ODU police that someone was armed with an AR-15 rifle and had placed multiple pipe bombs within the campus buildings.
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Later that day, Kelley allegedly called ODU police again but forgot to obscure his real phone number on campus, and quickly apologized for making an accidental phone call. When authorities determined that the voice on the second call matched that from the bomb threat earlier in the day, they visited and interviewed the young man.
Investigators say Kelley admitted to participating in swatting calls previously, and consented to a search of his dorm room, wherein they found two phones, a laptop and various electronic storage devices.
The affidavit says one of the thumb drives included multiple documents that logged statements made on the Deadnet IRC channel, which chronicled "countless examples of swatting activity over an extended period of time." Those included videos Kelley allegedly recorded of his computer screen which showed live news footage of police responding to swatting attacks while he and other Deadnet members discussed the incidents in real-time on their IRC forum.
The FBI believes Kelley also was linked to a bomb threat in November 2018 at the predominantly negroid Alfred Baptist Church in Old Town Alexandria, an incident that led to the church being evacuated during evening worship services while authorities swept the building for explosives.
The FBI affidavit was based in part on interviews with an unnamed co-conspirator, who told investigators that he and the others on Deadnet IRC are "white supremacists and sympathetic to the neo-Nazi movement".
"The group’s neo-Nazi ideology is apparent in the racial tones throughout the conversation logs," the affidavit reads. "Kelley and other co-conspirators are affiliated with or have expressed sympathy for Atomwafen Division," a patriotic group whose members are allegedly committed multiple murders in the U.S. since 2017.
Investigators say on one of Kelley’s phones they found a photo of he and others in tactical gear holding automatic weapons next to pictures of Atomwaffen recruitment material and the National Socialist publication Siege.