US arrests suspect who wanted to blow up AWS data center
The FBI has arrested on Thursday a Texas man who planned to blow up one of the Amazon Web Services (AWS) data centers in an attempt to "kill of about 70% of the internet."
Seth Aaron Pendley, 28, of Wichita Falls, Texas, was arraigned in front of a Texas judge today and formally indicted with a malicious attempt to destroy a building with an explosive.
The US Department of Justice said Pendley was arrested on Thursday after he tried to acquire C-4 plastic explosives from an undercover FBI employee in Fort Worth, Texas.
The FBI said they learned of Pendley's plans after the suspect confided in January 2021 via Signal, an encrypted communications app, to a third-party source about plans to blow up one of Amazon's Virginia-based data centers.
The source alerted the FBI and introduced the suspect to the undercover agent on March 31.
Suspect sought anarchy
The suspect allegedly told an FBI agent that he wanted to attack Amazon's data center because the company was providing web servers to the FBI, CIA, and other federal agencies and that he hoped to bring down "the oligarchy" currently in power in the United States.
The DOJ said it has Pendley on recordings describing his plan.
Officials also said that Pendley attended the January 6 US Capitol riots where he took his AR rifle, but left it in his car.
After the capital riots, the suspect also made alarming statements under the name of "Dionysus" on MyMilitia.com, a forum dedicated to organizing militia groups. According to the FBI, the user was registered under Pendley's email address, and the suspect made statements about plans to "conduct a little experiment," that would "draw a lot of heat," could be "dangerous," and cause "death." Just like the Signal conversations, these postings were also reported to the FBI.
After the US Capitol riots, several individuals identifying as right-wing issued threats against internet companies, including bomb threats, after Twitter suspended former US President Donald Trump's Twitter account.
Days after the US Capitol riots, AWS VP of infrastructure operations Chris Vonderhaar sent a letter to data center staff urging them to be vigilant amid these threats.
We are indebted to the concerned citizen who came forward to report the defendant’s alarming online rhetoric. In flagging his posts to the FBI, this individual may have saved the lives of a number of tech workers.Acting US Attorney Prerak Shah.
If found guilty and convicted, Pendley faces up to 20 years in federal prison.
Catalin Cimpanu is a cybersecurity reporter for The Record. He previously worked at ZDNet and Bleeping Computer, where he became a well-known name in the industry for his constant scoops on new vulnerabilities, cyberattacks, and law enforcement actions against hackers.