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Bot-net attacker gets three years for breaches
Published: 2006-08-28

A federal court in Seattle sentenced Christopher Maxwell, a 21-year-old California man, to 37 months in prison and three years of supervised release on Friday for compromising millions of computers in the process of creating a network of centrally controlled systems, also known as a bot net.

The automated attack that created the bot net infected systems at Seattle's Northwest Hospital, the Department of Defense, and the Colton Unified School District, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Washington said in a statement. Bot nets have become a popular tool among online criminals to control a legion of computer system that can be co-opted for massive denial-of-service attacks, sending spam and to protect the attackers anonymity.

"Based on evidence discovered during the investigation, we know that this bot net affected over a million computers," Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Warma said in a recorded statement posted to the Web site of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Washington. "The damage suffered was worldwide."

In a plea agreement signed by Maxwell in May, he admitted that he and two unnamed co-conspirators caused damage to Seattle's Northwest Hospital as well as computers at military facilities in Germany and the U.S. The group used the bot net created by the malicious software to install adware on the computers and earn more than $100,000 in affiliate advertising income, prosecutors stated. Among the effects of the computer infection at Northwest Hospital: Doors to the operating room failed to open, pagers did not work, and computers in the intensive care unit were disrupted, the statement said. The hospital used backup systems to continue to treat and care for patients.

The bot software also infected more than 400 systems at the Department of Defense's Fifth Signal Command in Mannheim, Germany, and the Directorate of Information Management in Fort Carson, Colo., causing more than $138,000 in damage.

Prosecutors and consumer advocates have focused increasingly on the problem of criminals known as bot herders, or bot masters. In January, a 20-year-old California man, Jeanson James Ancheta, plead guilty to compromising PCs to create a bot network.

Posted by: Robert Lemos
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