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8/28/2006
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Bot Herder Sentenced To Three-Year Prison Term

The attack hit thousands of computers, including some owned by the Department of Defense.

A California man was sentenced Friday to three years in prison for a two-year bot attack that hit tens of thousands of computers, including some owned by the Department of Defense.

In May, Christopher Maxwell, 21, of Vacaville, Calif. had pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to intentionally cause damage to a protected computer and conspiracy to commit computer fraud. Maxwell and two unnamed juvenile co-conspirators had been accused of hijacking PCs for a large botnet, then installing money-making adware on the victimized computers. According to prosecutors, Maxwell and the others made more then $100,000 from the illegally-installed adware.

U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman also sentenced Maxwell to three years of supervised release after his prison term is completed, and ordered that he pay $250,000 in restitution. The jail time, said Pechman, would serve as a "deterrence for all those youth out there who are squirreled away in their basements hacking."

At the sentencing, three witnesses testified that Maxwell's 2004-05 botnet attack damaged computers at a Seattle hospital, a California school district, and the Department of Defense.

Maxwell was the second American botnet controller, or "bot herder," to be sentenced. In May, another California man, 20-year-old Jeanson James Ancheta of Downey was sentenced to nearly six years in prison for hijacking more than 400,000 computers. Ancheta was also accused of making most of his ill-gotten gains by installing adware on infected computers.

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