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3/26/2010
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Card Hacker Draws 20 Year Sentence

Prosecutors said the hacks into accounts held by customers of Barnes & Noble, OfficeMax, TJX, and other retailers resulted in more than $200 million in losses and damages.

A judge on Thursday sentenced a hacker who stole more than 40 million debit and credit card numbers to 20 years in prison and $25,000 in fines.

Albert Gonzalez, 28, had previously pled guilty to breaking into accounts held by customers of Barnes & Noble, OfficeMax, BJs Wholesale Club, TJX, and other retailers. Prosecutors said the hacks resulted in more than $200 million in losses and damages.

In sentencing Gonzalez, Judge Patti Saris, of U.S. federal court in Boston, chastised the hacker for taking pride in his crimes.

"There is this macho, almost glee about how you could beat the system," Saris said, according to newspaper accounts of the hearing.

Gonzalez blamed his crimes on alcoholism, drug abuse, Asperger's disorder, and an "addiction" to computers. "I stand before you humbled by the past 22 months sober," Gonzalez told the judge.

"I'm guilty not only of exploiting computer networks, but personal relationships," Gonzalez reportedly said.

Prosecutors argued for a stiff sentence because they said computer hacking is a serious white collar crime that holds the potential to inflict enormous damage on individual victims and on society as a whole.

"He shook up a portion of our financial system," said U.S. Attorney Stephen Heymann, during the sentencing hearing.

"What matters most is that teenagers and young adults not look up to Albert Gonzalez. They need to know that they will be caught. That they will be punished, and the punishment will be severe," said Heymann.

Gonzalez, who was arrested in a Florida hotel room in 2008, also pled guilty to a series of additional charges. Sentencing for those charges is set for Friday.

Data centers have never been more strategic. But growing demands, flat budgets, and emerging technologies have IT teams sweating. That story and more in our March 22 all-digital issue. Download it now. (Registration required.)

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