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FBI Makes Arrest in Akron, Ohio, Website Hack

Federal authorities arrested one man they allege was behind the cyberattack that took down the city’s website last August.

(TNS) — The FBI on Thursday said it pulled the digital Guy Fawkes mask off an Akron hacker who shut down the city’s website last year and targeted others, including the U.S. Department of Defense.

James Robinson, 32, of Edison Avenue, in the Summit Lake neighborhood was arrested on a single federal charge of intentionally causing damage to a protected computer.

It was not clear Thursday whether Robinson had obtained a lawyer. A message sent to a Twitter handle that feds say he used was not immediately returned.

According to investigators, Robinson apparently embraced the Anonymous movement, a decentralized international activist group known for its online attacks on governments and corporations, along with the white Guy Fawkes’ masks that have come to symbolize the movement.

Fawkes was part of the 1605 Gunpowder Plot to blow up the House of Lords in London, but more recently a mask in his image was made famous by the 1988-89 comic book series V for Vendetta. In it, the anti-hero dons a Fawkes mask during efforts to topple an authoritarian government.

In the real world, individual Anonymous members often challenge institutions they consider authoritarian, but members’ motives can vary.

Whoever shut down the city of Akron’s website apparently believed Akron police and the city justice system were corrupt.

On the day of the cyberattack, Aug. 1, someone using the twitter handle @AkronPhoenix420 posted a link to a YouTube video that included a screen shot that showed was down.

A computer-generated voiceover on the video harshly criticized the city for being crime-ridden.

Among other things, the narrator claimed Freemasons have a “tight grip” on the justice system, Akron officials only care about generating revenue and on-duty Akron police officers pick up prostitutes and steal drugs for their own use.

“It’s time we teach the law a lesson,” the narrator says, “this week the city of Akron experienced system failures on multiple domains.”

A half-dozen agencies — including the FBI, Akron police and an arm of the U.S. Department of Defense — ultimately joined an investigation to find the hacker.

Among other things, the probe determined the cyberattacks were launched from an internet connection registered to Robinson, the FBI said, adding that Robinson’s phone was also associated with the @AkronPhoenix420 Twitter handle.

On Wednesday, law enforcement with a search warrant moved on Robinson’s home. Inside, the FBI said they found a Fawkes mask and a mobile phone with a cracked screen similar to a phone seen in tweets by @AkronPhoenix420.

The FBI said Thursday that Robinson said he was responsible for cyberattacks against websites operated by the city of Akron, the U.S. Department of Defense and others.

Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan said Thursday the city takes attacks on its website seriously.

“Convenient access to city services and information is essential to the proper functioning of local government,” he said in a prepared statement.

Akron Police Chief Kenneth Ball, meanwhile, expressed his department’s appreciation for the collaboration leading to an arrest.

“Hopefully this sends a strong message to any others that may think they can bully law enforcement,” Ball said in a prepared statement.

Yet it’s unclear if Robinson’s arrest will intimidate other hackers or push them to step up their efforts.

For years, law enforcement has shut down people and groups of hackers around the world only to have other hackers pop up.

In the YouTube video @AkronPhoenix420 linked to in August, the narrator implies Akron police had already targeted local Anonymous members.

“You cannot kill an idea. You cannot stop the resistance,” the computer generated voice warned. “We are the 99 percent and we are here.”

©2018 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.