[ISN] I Was A Teenage Bot Master

From: InfoSec News (alerts@private)
Date: Fri May 09 2008 - 05:49:12 PDT


By Dan Goodin in San Francisco
The Register
8th May 2008

Exclusive -- One day in May 2005, a 16-year-old hacker named SoBe opened 
his front door to find a swarm of FBI agents descending on his family's 
three-story house in Boca Raton, Florida. With an arm and leg in casts 
from a recent motorcycle accident, one agent grabbed his good arm while 
others seized thousands of dollars worth of computers, video game 
consoles and other electronics. His parents looked on.

At that moment, some 2,700 miles away, in the Los Angeles suburb of 
Downey, California, the FBI was serving a separate search warrant on 
Jeanson James Ancheta, SoBe's 20-year-old employer and hacking mentor. 
It was the second time in six months Ancheta had been raided by the FBI
- a clear sign, had either bothered to notice, that their year-long 
botnet spree was unravelling.

But instead of abandoning the venture after the first raid, or at least 
laying low for a while, SoBe and Ancheta, according to court documents, 
continued hijacking hundreds of thousands of PCs that they would then 
corral into massive networks and infect with adware. So great was SoBe's 
sense of impunity he continued the scheme even after Ancheta was 
arrested a few months later and charged with 17 felonies related to the 
hijacking of almost 400,000 PCs, some of them belonging to the US 
Department of Defense.

"That's why I love this age, its all computers heh," SoBe wrote in early 
December 2005, a month after Ancheta's arrest, during an online chat. 
"All these companys have websites, etc. Its just funny going somewhere 
like Target, or Sprint then coming home and rooting there servers out of 
boredom. Makes some people feel like they can do anything." 
(Misspellings and grammatical errors are his.)

SoBe's adrenalin-fueled days of fast money were slowly coming to an end. 
His downfall started shortly after he and Ancheta launched their botnet 
venture, when some clumsy mistakes attracted the attention of federal 
investigators. It continued as their homes were raided, and shortly 
after that, when the feds seized more than $38,000 earmarked as SoBe's 
cut of the botnet profits. Then in May 2006, SoBe was shocked when he 
learned Ancheta received 57 months in prison after pleading guilty to 
four counts of fraud related to the scheme.

His undoing was completed in February, seven months after SoBe turned 
18, when he pleaded guilty to two counts of juvenile delinquency related 
to his use of botnets.

SoBe - who also went under the names SoBe Owns, PwnZ0r, SerlissMc and 
vapidz - admitted to infecting computers belonging to the Defense 
Information Security Agency and Sandia National Laboratories. He was 
sentenced today in a closed-door hearing. Although the actual sentence 
is confidential because SoBe was a juvenile at time of the crimes, his 
plea agreement contemplated a prison term of 12 to 18 months.


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