The FBI arrested a Texas man on Thursday for allegedly planning to “kill of about 70% of the internet” in a bomb attack targeting an Amazon Web Services (AWS) data center on Smith Switch Road in Ashburn, Virginia.
Seth Aaron Pendley, 28, was charged via criminal complaint on Friday morning for attempting to destroy a building using C-4 plastic explosives he tried to buy from an undercover FBI employee.
The FBI got wind of the suspect’s plans in January when he revealed his plot on the MyMilitia website using a ‘Dionysus’ handle, a forum used by militia members and supporters to organize and communicate.
FBI agents found in late January from another source Pendley contacted using the Signal encrypted messaging app that he was planning to use C-4 plastic explosives to attack Amazon’s data centers in an attempt to “kill off about 70% of the internet,” according to the criminal complaint filed today.
In February, Pendley shared with the source a hand-made map of Amazon’s Virginia-based AWS data center “featuring proposed routes of ingress and egress at the facility.”
The same source introduced the suspect to an undercover FBI employee posing as an explosives supplier at the end of March.
Pendley told the “supplier” that he was planning to bomb servers he believed were used by the FBI, CIA, and other US federal agencies. His plot also included taking down the “oligarchy” currently leading the United States.
Undercover FBI employee hands suspect a dud
He met with the undercover FBI employee on April 8 to get what he believed were explosive devices. Instead, he received inert devices.
The suspect was arrested by FBI agents after placing them into his car, following a demonstration from the “explosives supplier” on how to arm and detonate them.
If he is found guilty of planning to blow up Amazon’s Virginia data center, Pendley faces up to 20 years in federal prison.
“We are indebted to the concerned citizen who came forward to report the defendant’s alarming online rhetoric,” Acting US. Attorney Prerak Shah said.
“In flagging his posts to the FBI, this individual may have saved the lives of a number of tech workers.
“We are also incredibly proud of our FBI partners, who ensured that the defendant was apprehended with an inert explosive device before he could inflict real harm.”
Amazon shared the following statement with BleepingComputer about the planned attack.
“We would like to thank the FBI for their work in this investigation. We take the safety and security of our staff and customer data incredibly seriously, and constantly review various vectors for any potential threats. We will continue to retain this vigilance about our employees and customers.” – An AWS Spokesperson.
Update 4/9/21 6:02 PM EST: Added statement from Amazon