Two hackers charged with Minecraft-linked bomb threats that led to school evacuations
In Southern California, two alleged hackers have been arrested and charged with multiple offences following widespread Minecraft-related hoaxes which led to the evacuation of hundreds of schools in the UK and US over false bomb threats.
Timothy Dalton Vaughn and George Duke-Cohan, or else known by their respective hacker aliases “wantedbyfeds” and “DigitalCrimes,” were charged with hacking crimes, conspiracy, and “interstate threats involving explosives,” referring to the numerous bomb threats sent to different schools. Court documents claim that Vaughn and Duke-Cohan, acting within a hacker organization known as Apophis Squad, coordinated a series of “bomb and school-shooting threats designed to cause fear of looming danger and did cause the closure of hundreds of schools on two continents on multiple occasions.”
The department tweeted on Twitter, “Detectives have looked into the emails which seem to originate from the US and can confirm that there is no viable threat.”
Later Sky News reported that the emails were “spoofed” in an attempt to get the domain for VeltPvP, a popular Minecraft server, suspended. Prosecutors allege that Apophis Squad also used the emails to make it appear like the threats were coming from the Mayor of London and Zonix, a client often used for Minecraft, alongside VeltPvP. Vaughan and Duke-Cohen used Discord servers and IRC rooms with other members of the Apophis Squad, according to court documents, to coordinate emails to different schools.
Over the course of several months threats were sent, with several incidents mentioned in court filings. Apophis Squad would use Twitter to ask people who wanted a day off school to send the hacker squad cash and would send out a hoax email in response. On April 28th, 2018, Duke-Cohen tweeted under the Apophis Squad Twitter handle that they were “planning to hit as many schools as possible on Monday.”
According to the documents, Duke-Cohen tweeted, “We hope anyone that just wants to have a day off or get out of that math test you have! will email us any schools. We are working hard on getting 100K emails.”