A California man has been arrested on charges he used distributed denial-of-service attacks to take down the website of a Congressional candidate whose rival employed his wife.
Arthur Jan Dam, 32, of Santa Monica, was arrested by FBI agents on Thursday. According to a criminal complaint filed in Los Angeles federal court, Dam DDoSed the website of a candidate that The Intercept reported was running against Katie Hill in the 2018 primary election. Hill won by fewer than 3,000 votes and went on to flip a Republican-held seat in the general election. Hill later resigned after nude photos of her were published without her consent.
Dam, who The Intercept reported was married to Hill fundraiser Kelsey O’Hara, allegedly staged four attacks that took down the website of Bryan Caforio, Hill’s rival candidate in the primary. The candidate spent from $27,000 to $30,000 in response to the 21-hour outages and also experienced a reduction of campaign contributions. Rolling Stone reported on the attacks in the September 2018 election. The FBI has not uncovered any evidence that either Hill or Dam’s wife had any involvement in the attacks, prosecutors said in a release. Friday’s complaint didn’t identify either the candidates or Dam’s wife.
FBI investigators tracked the origins of the attacks to Amazon Web Services servers that were controlled by an account belonging to Dam. At the time of the attacks, prosecutors said, the AWS account was accessed by IP addresses connected to Dam’s home and workplace. The investigators also found Dam had conducted Web searches for several DDoS related topics and tools, including Slow Loris, Slow Loris nodejs, and Juniper ex3300. Other searches involved terms involving computer exploits, although there are no allegations that he used any.
Some of the attacks spoofed packet headers to give the appearance that the barrage of traffic was coming from legitimate sites such as USA Today, Engadget, and Google. One of the DDoS attacks came an hour before the candidate participated in an election debate. The candidate had no other means than social media to make public statements in the hours afterward.
The complaint said Dam owned the site arthurdam.com, which according to Web archives shows he worked as a senior creative technologist for a company called MediaMonks. Dam was charged with a single count of intentionally damaging and attempting to damage a protected computer. He was arrested after surrendering to FBI agents in Los Angeles. His first court appearance is scheduled for Friday afternoon.