RealTime IT News

'Botmaster' Pleads Guilty to Zombie Profits

A 20-year-old Los Angeles man faces up to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty Monday to federal charges he profited from an army of 400,000 zombie computers.

Jeanson James Ancheta admits earning more than $60,000 from adware and spam, according to federal prosecutors who charged Ancheta with being part of a "botmaster underground" that took control of computer systems.

Along with violating the Computer Fraud Abuse Act and CAN-SPAM Act, Ancheta also admitted to damaging computers at the U.S. Naval Air Warfare Center and the Defense Information Systems Agency.

"Ancheta admitted using computer servers he controlled to transmit malicious code over the Internet to scan for and exploit vulnerable computers," according to the U.S. district attorney in Los Angeles. The case is "the first prosecution of its kind in the nation," according to a statement.

After infecting thousands of computers, the Los Angeles man directed those systems to connect to an Internet Relay Chat channel to scan for other vulnerable computers, according to prosecutors.

Ancheta used the infected computers under his control to earn $60,000 in adware affiliate fees. The man avoided detection from advertising companies by using multiple servers purchased from the adware profits.

Ancheta also earned $3,000 by renting his botnet to computer users wishing to launch Denial-of-Service attacks and send spam. The 20-year-old advised people interested in using his botnet on the best methods, according to federal officials.

As part of his guilty plea, Ancheta will turn over $60,000 in cash earned from the zombie computer network, a BMW and computer equipment. Ancheta also will pay $15,000 for damaging the federal computer networks.

Ancheta is scheduled to be sentenced May 1.