A Maryland man linked to the notorious hacking groups Lizard Squad and PoodleCorp has pleaded guilty to running a "hacking-for-hire" service that plagued companies worldwide and harassing thousands of people. Zachary Buchta, 20, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit damage to protected computers in a federal court in Chicago on Tuesday (19 December).
In his plea agreement, he also admitted to being a founding member of the hacker groups Lizard Squad and PoodleCorp that charged a $20 (£15) fee to target anyone for online harassment.
Lizard Squad rose to international notoriety after targeting Sony's PlayStation Network and Microsoft's Xbox Live with massive DDoS attacks on Christmas 2014, crippling their platforms during the holiday season. In January 2015, they claimed to have hijacked the social media accounts of pop singer Taylor Swift.
They have also claimed responsibility for multiple attacks targeting the servers of entertainment and gaming companies such as Overwatch and World of Warcraft developer Blizzard.
PoodleCorp, on the other hand, has also hit gaming giants' servers including Blizzard, EA, Rockstar Games and Niantic among others.
Buchta, who went by the screen names "pein", "@fbiarelosers", "lizard" and "xotehpoodle" has also agreed to pay $350,000 in restitution to two gaming companies that were targeted.
He was arrested as a teen in September 2016. Federal prosecutors charged Buchta along with Bradley Jan Willem van Rooy from the Netherlands last year for allegedly conspiring with others to launch DDoS attacks across the globe since 2015. They were also the first charges brought against alleged members of Lizard Squad in the US.
Besides domains linked to the hacker groups such as "lizardsquad.org," "poodlecorp.org," "stresser.poodlecorp.org" and "shenron.lizardsquad.org", federal officials also seized the scam domain "phonebomber.net" operated by the duo that allowed customers to pay to unleash a barrage of relentless harassing phone calls to a targeted victim.
One Illinois victim in October 2015 received a disturbing phone call that rang non-stop every hour for 30 days. The audio recording on the other end of the call said: "When you walk the f**king streets, motherf**ker, you better look over your f**king back because I don't flying [expletive] if we have to burn your f**king house down, if we have to f**king track your [expletive] family down, we will [expletive] your [expletive] up [expletive] ."
Prosecutors said they will recommend a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence for Buchta if he cooperates with the investigation, Chicago Tribune reported. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of ten years in prison.