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Botnet ringleader gets four years


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Ex-security consultant John Schiefer was first botnet operator charged under wiretap statutes

March 5, 2009 (Computerworld) The first person to be charged under federal wiretap statutes for using a botnet to steal data and commit fraud was sentenced to four years in prison this week.

John Schiefer, a 27-year-old Los Angeles resident, was also ordered to pay $2,500 in fines. The sentence was handed down Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Howard Matz in federal court in Los Angeles.

Schiefer, a former security researcher, agreed to plead guilty in November 2007 to stealing usernames, passwords and financial data from more than 250,000 compromised systems, then installing adware on the massive botnet that he and several accomplices set up.

The guilty plea was formally entered and accepted last April, and sentencing was originally scheduled for last August but was extended several times because of motions filed by Schiefer. He faced a maximum of 60 years in prison and fines of $1.75 million after admitting to four felony counts involving illegal access to computers, illegal interception of data and wire fraud.

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In addition, Schiefer admitted to illegally installing adware programs on nearly 150,000 of the compromised systems without the consent of their owners. The adware was installed on the behalf of a Netherlands-based Internet advertising firm that had contracted with Schiefer to do the work, but the contract terms required him to get consent from users before doing installations.

When Schiefer agreed to plead guilty to the charges against him, he also said he would pay nearly $20,000 in restitution to the Dutch company and to financial institutions that he had defrauded, according to court documents.

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