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U.S. charges Calif. man in computer botnet case

U.S. charges Calif. man in computer botnet case
U.S. charges Calif. man in computer botnet case 

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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