A 20 year old computer hacker who created armies of drone computers to launch attacks on websites and selling “botnets” to spammers to spread spam pleaded guilty Monday to federal criminal charges in Los Angeles.
James Aquilina, assistant U.S. attorney with the cyber and intellectual property crimes section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Jeanson James Ancheta pleaded guilty in a U.S. District Court in Los Angeles to four felony charges and could face from five to 25 years in jail.
Aquilina said The is the first time in the U.S. that a hacker has been convicted not only for developing and spreading malicious programs but also for making money out of it.
Security experts warn about the significant increase of bot nets activity in the past two years, partially driven by a wave of relatively unsophisticated “bot herders” like Ancheta, who tap into tools and advice commonly available on the Internet.
Last November the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation apprehended 20-year-old Ancheta, whom they believed to be part of a “botmaster underground” that obtain control of unsuspecting computers to and sells those computer armies to people who want to commit cyber crimes.
Aquilina said the hacker Ancheta pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy, one for selling botnets that were used to launch Internet-based attacks and send spam, and the other for directing botnets to adware servers that downloaded adware secretly to the hijacked systems.
Ancheta made about a substantial profit of about $US3,000 from selling botnets, and about $US60,000 from the adware scam, Aquilina said.
The hacker also pleaded guilty to government intrusion for breaking into computers at both the Weapons Division of the United States Naval Air Warfare Center in China Lake, California, and the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), a part of the U.S. Department of Defense. The last count in the guilty plea is computer fraud, for accessing computers without authorization with the intent of profiting from it, Aquilina said.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, which was entered on Friday, Ancheta must surrender more than $US58,000 in profits and give up a BMW he bought with money from illegal activity, as well as computers and other evidence seized in the investigation, Aquilina said. In addition, Ancheta has agreed to pay the U.S. government restitution of about $US20,000 for infecting computers at China Lake and at DISA, the attorney said.