Although convicted "botmaster" Jeanson James Ancheta received the longest prison sentence ever imposed on a malware distributor, most people think the judge should have handed out a harsher penalty, according to a new Sophos poll.
Of the 275 people polled, 60 percent said the 21-year-old Ancheta's 57-month prison term is too lenient. Meanwhile, 24 percent believe the punishment is fair, while 16 percent think it is too harsh.
"These results prove that there is little love lost between PC users and cybercriminals," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "There is a distinct lack of sympathy from legitimate IT users for those people who try to make their lives harder."
A poll conducted by F-Secure revealed a similar result, but not as pronounced. As of early this afternoon, the survey found that of 600 respondents, 30.5 percent thought the punishment is too little, compared to 22 percent who felt it is too severe.
The largest number of respondents – 39.5 percent – said the punishment is just right, while eight percent have no opinion.
Authorities said Ancheta, a resident of California, rented out zombie PCs to hackers so they could spend spam and unleash DoS attacks. He also profited by installing adware on a network of compromised computers.
In addition to the prison sentence, Ancheta also was ordered to pay $15,000 to the military organizations whose computers were attacked. According to prosecutors, he compromised systems in the Weapons Division of the U.S. Naval Air Warfare Center in China Lake, Calif., and at the U.S. Department of Defense.
Ancheta admitted advertising his botnets online via an IRC channel named "botz4sale." He offered software that could remotely control computers to deliver spam and launch DoS attacks. Websites hit by these attacks then could be blackmailed in exchange for server restoration.
"Ancheta's crimes caused distress and financial loss to thousands of individuals and companies and, as a result, the U.S. justice system came down on him tougher than ever seen before," Cluley said. "But it seems this is still not enough for the majority of people."