• The hacker defaced over 11,000 US military, government and business websites.
  • The defacements appeared to be linked to a political situation between Palestine, Israel, and Gaza.

A California man pleaded guilty to hacking websites of the Combating Terrorism Center at the United States Military Academy in West Point. He is also believed to be responsible for hacking and defacing the website of Office of the New York City Comptroller.

Billy Ribeiro Anderson pleaded guilty to two counts of computer fraud before U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain, in a court in the Southern District of New York.

According to the Department of Justice (DoJ), Anderson went on a website hacking and defacement spree between 2015 and 2018. He gained unauthorized access to over 11,000 US military, government, and business websites.

Acting under the alias “AlfabetoVirtual”, the hacker replaced website content with his own, and left a calling card that read, “Hacked by AlfabetoVirtual,” “#FREEPALESTINE” and “#FREEGAZA”.

It appears that Anderson’s hacking spree was connected to the political conflict in Palestine, Israel, and Gaza. Investigators also related Anderson’s actions to the Free Gaza Movement that has been active since 2008 and is made up of human rights activists and pro-Palestinian groups.

Modus operandi

Anderson hacked the New York City Comptroller website by exploiting the vulnerabilities in the third party web plugin. The US military academy’s website was hacked using a Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) flaw, which allowed Anderson to gained access to administrator accounts and bypass access controls.

According to the DoJ, Anderson was not only responsible for widespread website defacement but had also compromised several web servers around the world. By installing malware in these servers, the hacker attempted to maintain persistence to create multiple backdoor in the system.

Anderson is scheduled to be sentenced Feb.13, 2019, and may face up to 10 years of imprisonment.

"This case demonstrates that those who seek to commit cyber intrusions of government websites will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S.Berman said.

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