Neo-Nazi Swatting Ring’s Alleged ‘Cybersecurity’ Guru Arrested Thanks to… Terrible Cybersecurity – By Kelly Weill (Daily Beast) / Jan 15 2020
Even as far-right groups have shown a disturbing ability to organize online, hangers-on may be just as likely to invite the feds to their doorstep.
He called himself the “BotGod.” But the cybersecurity student was so bad at, well, cybersecurity, that he allegedly exposed a neo-Nazi swatting ring that counted him as a member.
John William Kirby Kelley, 19, is accused of leading a notorious troll team loosely affiliated with the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division. Through 2018, Kelley’s online chat group allegedly compiled personal information and led swatting attacks (hoaxes in which trolls try to trick an armed police force into showing up at an innocent person’s house) against politicians, businesses, journalists, and historically black churches.
Kelley and his circle, who convened on a series of online chat rooms, “all appeared to share racist views, with particular disdain for African Americans and Jewish people,” according to a probable-cause statement from an FBI agent involved in his arrest last week.
Although Kelley was majoring in cybersecurity and allegedly acted as the group’s tech support, he left a wide internet trail that could send him and alleged associates to prison. The case suggested that even as far-right groups have shown a disturbing ability to organize online, hangers-on may be just as likely to invite the feds to their doorstep. Kelley’s lawyers declined to comment for this story.
A violent extremist group, Atomwaffen members have been suspects in at least five killings since 2017. Although the group has a real-world paramilitary presence, it also has a larger and more nebulous online footprint. Multiple men affiliated with the group’s online outposts and spinoff groups have recently been arrested, including one who allegedly planned a violent attack on Jewish sites in Las Vegas.
Kelley, who was arrested on Jan. 10, was allegedly fueled by the same prejudices. Feds say his phone contained pictures of him with Atomwaffen recruiting materials. Meanwhile, he and his online circle allegedly livestreamed swatting campaigns, and even ran a publicly viewable list of future targets’ addresses, earning them notoriety online.