Botnet Perp Hit With Three-Year Prison Term

A 21-year-old Californian is heading to prison for three years as a result of his role in launching a botnet attack that harmed thousands of computers.

Among the victims of the attack were a Seattle hospital and U.S. Department of Defense computer systems in Germany and Colorado.

U.S. District Judge Marsha J. Pechman sentenced Christopher Maxwell, of Vacaville, Calif., to a three-year prison sentence followed by three years of supervised probation after he plead guilty in May to conspiracy to intentionally cause damage to a protected computer.

According to the plea agreement, Maxwell and two unnamed co-conspirators created a botnet , a collection of compromised machines, that fraudulently obtained commission income by installing adware on computers without the owners’ permission.

The government claims Maxwell and his co-conspirators earned $100,000 in fraudulent payments from companies that had their adware installed.

As the botnet continued searching for other computers to control, it infected the computer network at Seattle’s Northwest Hospital, causing the computers in the hospital’s intensive care unit to shut down.

In addition, doors to the operating rooms did not open and pagers crashed.

More than 400 computers were also damaged at the 5th Signal Command in Manheim, Germany, and the Directorate of Information Management in Fort Carson, Colo., at a cost of $130,000.

Under the terms of the plea agreement Maxwell is responsible for more than $252,000 in restitution to Northwest Hospital and the Department of Defense.

Maxwell’s conviction follows by just months the first criminal conviction in the United States of a botnet perpetrator.

In May, Jeanson James Ancheta, 21, of Downey, Calif., was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison by United States District Judge R. Gary Klausner in Los Angeles.

Like Maxwell, Ancheta’s goal was to generate income from illegally installing adware.

According to the Department of Justice, Ancheta pulled in more than $107,000 in advertising affiliate proceeds by downloading adware to more than 400,000 infected computers that he controlled.

In addition, Ancheta earned approximately $3,000 by selling access to his botnets.

In his plea agreement, Ancheta admitted he sold his botnets to other computer users, who used the machines under botnet control to launch distributed denial of service (DDOS)  attacks and to send unsolicited spam.

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