A Washington State man, charged with creating and distributing a trojan intended to steal computer usernames and passwords, has pleaded guilty in federal court.
Richard Honour admitted to distributing the spyware through emails he sent to users of DarkMyst, an IRC chatroom popular with online gamers.
He also released messages with embedded links that would download and install spyware on to the recipient’s computers.
The 31-year-old then used the infected machines to steal online financial details and other personal information in order to commit identity theft.
He pleaded guilty to one felony count of computer fraud.
The FBI began to investigate the case after receiving complaints from internet users. The agency arrested him at his home in Washington State, where forensic officers seized evidence from his computer that suggested he had written the malicious code and stolen sensitive data from the victims’ PCs.
He could face a maximum prison term of five years plus a fine of $250,000 when he is sentenced later this year.
"Criminals like Richard Honour lure the unwary by disguising their trojan horses as seemingly harmless links to movie files," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "The rise of the trojan has been one of the key developments in cybercrime in recent years, as hackers increasingly use them to steal information and money from unsuspecting internet users. Everyone should be on their guard against this type of attack -- and the authorities should be congratulated for bringing complicated cases such as this to a successful resolution."
Honour is due to be sentenced May 4 in federal court in St. Louis.