LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A Santa Monica man was arrested Friday by the FBI on federal charges of staging several cyberattacks on the website of a challenger to former Rep. Katie Hill leading up to the 2018 Democratic congressional primary election.
Arthur Jan Dam, 32, has been charged with one count of intentionally damaging and attempting to damage a protected computer. If convicted of the charge, he faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.
Federal investigators say Dam staged four distributed denial-of-service, or DDoS, attacks in April and May of 2018, flooding congressional candidate Bryan Caforio’s website with superfluous requests in order to overload systems and prevent legitimate requests from being fulfilled. The attacks took down Caforio’s website for a total of 21 hours. According to the Department of Justice, Caforio increased cybersecurity measures and retained a website security company after the third cyberattack, but the website was still knocked offline a week before the primary election.
The criminal complaint says Dam was married to a woman who worked as a fundraiser for Hill, who eventually won the election.
Prosecutors did not name the candidate, but Caforio confirmed to KNX Newsradio that his campaign was the target of the attacks.
“I’m absolutely shocked and saddened to learn today that Katie Hill’s campaign associates hacked my campaign in order to help her advance through the primary,” Caforio told KNX. “This should serve as a somber reminder that Russia is not the only threat to our democracy. There are bad actors on all sides who will do anything for their own personal gain, and we need to come together as Americans to defend our country and hold everyone responsible accountable.”
The FBI says they have not found evidence that Hill or Dam’s wife were involved in or had knowledge of the cyberattacks.
The cyberattacks caused a reduction in campaign donations, and forced Caforio and campaign staff to spend time conducting critical incident response. The candidate spent between $27,000 and $30,000 responding to the attacks, and blamed them for losing the June 2018 primary election.
According to an affidavit, the investigation found the cyberattacks all originated from one Amazon Web Services account controlled by Dam, and that the four attacks corresponded to logins into that account from either Dam’s home or workplace. Dam was also found to have conducted “extensive research” on both the candidate and cyberattacks, according to the federal criminal complaint.
Dam was arrested Friday after surrendering to the FBI at the United States Courthouse in downtown LA. He is expected to make his first court appearance Friday afternoon.