The FBI has arrested a 20-year-old man after he created a botnet of more than 400,000 infected machines, installing adware on them and making $60,000. As a side business the man was also alleged to have sold access to the botnet to spammers.
US Attorney spokesman Thom Mrozek said the prosecution was unusual because Jeanson James Ancheta, who lives in the Los Angeles suburb of Downey, was accused of profiting from his attacks by installing adware on a network of innocent third-party compromised computers. According to prosecutors, some of the computers attacked were at the Weapons Division of the US Naval Air Warfare Center in China Lake, California and at the US Department of Defense.
He was arrested after being lured to the FBI's offices in Los Angeles to pick up computer equipment seized in an earlier raid. He has been charged with conspiracy, attempted transmission of code to a protected computer, transmission of code to a government computer, accessing a protected computer to commit fraud, and money laundering. If convicted of all counts, Ancheta could face a maximum term of 50 years in prison.
"Zombie botnets are a growing security problem as they pump out spam campaigns, steal information, or launch attacks against corporate networks," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "In this case it appears they were being primarily used for displaying unwanted pop-up advertisements - filling the hacker's pockets with cash."