Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

There’s hope–bot herder faces 60 year prison term (that’s a long time)

Loyal friends and true of this series are aware that I really dislike cyber criminals. I have written articles devoted to helping you protect yourself, your “identity”, and how to prevent your computer from becoming a zombie in a botnet. (And I hope you’ve read them and applied the advice contained within.)

You do not have to be a capital “g” Geek to have heard about Identity Theft, phishing emails, online scams, and malware (viruses, worms, trojan horses, keyloggers, etc.) and you don’t have to be a paranoid to be concerned about these things. The facts are simple– all these things are exploding across the Internet in an exponential growth pattern. It is getting worse, not better. If you have not taken steps to protect your machine and you surf the Web, your machine is infected and is probably someone’s zombie robot.
Today, it’s not a question “if” you’ll be targeted, but “when”, and respected authorities state that the “when” is within 8 minutes.

I wrote an article about how the FBI was concerned enough about cyber criminals, particularly those who control networks of zombies (“bots”), to launch a special operation.. which they called Operation: Bot Roast. [to review that article, click here.] One of the three “bot herders” arrested in this FBI operation, Jason Michael Downey, was sentenced last month to a year in prison, three years of supervised release and more than $21,000 in restitution for running a botnet of up to 6,000 infected PCs.

Perhaps it’s just me, but I don’t think three arrests, and a year in jail (with “good behavior”, 1 year is really six or seven months) is much of a deterrent to someone considering becoming a bot herder. Particularly when one factors in the free-and-easy money to be made.
In case I haven’t made it clear; malware, today, is about money. Namely, stealing it.

Someone else apparently feels the same way, as this news headline indicates, “A California man is facing a maximum of 60 years in prison and a $1.75 million fine after agreeing to plead guilty to using botnets to steal PC users’ personal and financial information.”

Here’s the details: “John Schiefer, 26, of Los Angeles has agreed to plead guilty to one felony count each of accessing protected computers to conduct fraud, disclosing illegally intercepted electronic communications, wire fraud and bank fraud.
Schiefer used his army of bot computers to defraud a Dutch advertising company and also mined usernames and passwords of PayPal users whose PCs had been infected with malware. He and associates then accessed bank accounts to make fraudulent purchases.”
The total number of bot PCs controlled by Schiefer was unknown, but is estimated to be “well north of 250,000.”
Those “bot PCs” are you and me, Dear Reader (or, your neighbor).

Naughty, naughty. But Mr. Schiefer did not do anything extraordinary, and in fact used techniques freely available to the hacker/criminal community. He is, however, the first to be charged under various new laws, and the first to be hit really hard.

There are a great variety of reasons and facts with which one can argue that this stiff sentence will change nothing about cyber crime, and do nothing to deter potential cyber criminals… not the least of which is that the majority of them live outside of US juristiction. But I for one see this as a step in the right direction.

Mr. Shiefer may, or may not, one day be released from prison, but he will certainly not enjoy his time in a “country club” nor be released anytime soon. I myself think he got off light.

[update: This guy, Schiefer, worked as an IT security consultant, and even performed some of his crimes while at work. How’s that for moxie?]

[update 3/20: a cohort please guilty, faces 10 years. Read more here.]

Today’s free link: Want to find out if you’re paying too much rent, or perhaps want to find a cheaper apartment near you? Rentometer is the place to go. Type in your address (or, desired address) and Zip Code and the number of bedrooms, how much your current rent is, and rentometer will show you a scale of how your rent compares, and a Google map of places offering rentals.

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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November 15, 2007 Posted by | anti-spyware, computers, PC, security, tech | , | Leave a comment