• United States



German shooter hacked Facebook account to lure victims, bought gun on dark net

Jul 24, 20164 mins
Data and Information SecurityFacebookSecurity

The 18-year-old gunman in the mass shooting at a German McDonald's reportedly hacked Facebook to lure victims, bought a gun on the ‘dark net’ and played the ‘violent’ video game Counter-Strike

handgun revolver
Credit: Thinkstock

The media is delving into the digital life of the teenage shooter who opened fire at McDonald’s in Munich, Germany’s Olympia Mall. Nine people were killed, and 27 others were injured in the tragic rampage. In the end, he killed himself. So far, it’s been reported that he hacked Facebook to lure victims, bought a gun on the “dark net” and played the “violent” video game Counter-Strike.

Shooter hacked a girl’s Facebook account to target and social engineer victims

Mass shooting gunman Ali David Sonly, 18, purportedly used Facebook to social engineer, aka “lure,” victims to McDonald’s. The Telegraph reported that the shooter, who had dual German-Iranian citizenship, hacked into a “pretty teenage” girl’s Facebook account.

Pretending to be Selina Akim, he posted on her wall, “I am giving away anything you want as long as it’s not too expensive.”

One of the girl’s Facebook friends allegedly warned the others that it was “a fake account of one Ali Sonboly. Don’t get your hopes up. The boy is psychologically disturbed and only wants attention.”

Sonboly allegedly targeted “Turkish and Arab” teenagers via the hijacked Facebook account because “those group had picked on him in school,” inviting them to meet “her” at McDonald’s at 4 p.m.

Facebook has taken down the hacked account.

‘Reactivated’ gun purportedly bought on ‘dark net’

Sonboly, who had at first wrongly been reported to have links with ISIS, reportedly was a big fan of mass shooting rampages. He was “obsessed” with mass killers and was “inspired” by Norwegian killer Anders Behring Breivik. The attack occurred exactly five years after Breivik murdered 77 people in Norway, gunning down 69 and exploding a car bomb in Oslo.

Sonboly had also visited and photographed the site of a previous German school shooting. He had books and other material about mass killers. He reportedly received both inpatient and outpatient psychiatric treatment last year.

Bavarian investigator Robert Heimberger said Sonboly “had been planning this crime since last summer.” He added that there were still “many more terabytes” of data to analyze.

Although the BBC said police don’t how how he obtained the gun, which had its serial number “obliterated,” a German newspaper claimed he reportedly bought the Glock 17 off a dark net marketplace. It had been a reactivated “theater weapon,” bearing a certification mark from Slovakia.

Heimberger, pointing one finger of blame at technology, saying, “I’m not able to get on the dark net, but I am noticing that many teenagers are able to get on it.”

He might be surprised by how many previously clueless people have learned to access the Deep Web and purchase bitcoins thanks to ransomware.

Kicking up the same old blame on ‘violent video games’

Some news reports are blaming violent video games, which is annoyingly common after mass shootings. ABC worded it a bit differently, claiming Sonboly was an “avid player of violent video crimes.” Der Spiegel reported the shooter played “intensely violent games on the Internet.” The game was Counter-Strike, according to a “friend” who first knew Sonboly via TeamSpeak. He recognized Sonboly in a video as he shouted gamer lingo at local residents.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière claimed Sonboly was inspired by such games and those games were partly to blame for the tragedy. According to a Google translation of the German article, Maizière said, “It was clear that the ‘intolerable degree of violence glorifying games on the internet also have a detrimental effect on the development of young people. This can no reasonable person deny.’”

Naturally, reasonable people did deny that. University of Duisburg-Essen Computer Science researcher Maic Masucci rebutted that since “no sensible scientists can assert [that] with such certainty,” the Minister certainly could not.

Der Spiegel delved into some of the “hate” messages Sonboly had posted online, as well as the number of times the gunman praised other mass shooting gunmen. After Sonboly dropped out of the gaming group and deleted his profile, the rest of the players were reportedly “relieved,” as anyone in their right mind would have been “a little afraid of him.”

Yes, some violent, mentally ill people are scary and may play video games, but Sonboly also probably drank milk or ate bread, and you don’t see anyone blaming those things.

If you are curious, here is a translated version the heated exchange between Sonboly and an unseen man who filmed him. If profanity upsets you, then you don’t want to read it or see the clip.

ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.