[ISN] U.S. charges Calif. man in computer botnet case

InfoSec News isn at c4i.org
Tue Feb 14 01:39:13 EST 2006


By Reuters
FEBRUARY 13, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A California man was indicted on Friday on
federal charges of creating a robot-like network of hijacked computers
that helped him and two others bring in $100,000 for installing
unwanted ad software.

The indictment from a federal grand jury in Seattle also accuses
Christopher Maxwell, 20, and two unidentified conspirators of
crippling Seattle's Northwest Hospital with a "botnet" attack in
January 2005.

Authorities say the hospital attack caused $150,000 in damages, shut
down the intensive care unit and disabled doctors' pagers.

"Some people consider botnets a mere annoyance or inconvenience for
consumers but they are highly destructive," U.S. Attorney John McKay
said in a statement. "In this case, the impact of the botnet could
have been deadly."

The two-count indictment charges Maxwell with conspiracy to
intentionally cause damage to a protected computer and commit computer

A "bot" like the one Maxwell is accused of operating is a program that
surreptitiously installs itself on a computer so it can be controlled
by a hacker. A botnet is a network of such robot, or "zombie,"  
computers, that can harness their collective power to do considerable
damage or send out huge amounts of junk e-mail.

The creator of a botnet typically uses a computer or computers to
search the Internet for vulnerable machines. After installing
malicious code, a bot program connects to the network where it will
receive commands from the operator of the network.

Authorities charge that Maxwell used a botnet to secretly install
unwanted Internet adware, which makes advertising displays pop up on a
user's computer, and then earn commissions from a number of companies.

If convicted Maxwell, faces a maximum 10 years in prison and a
$250,000 fine.

As part of his network, authorities said Maxwell hijacked high-powered
server networks at California State University, Northridge, the
University of Michigan and the University of California, Los Angeles.

Copyright 2006 Reuters.

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