Teenager pleads guilty to botnet, 'swatting' charges

A 16-year-old Massachusetts boy has pleaded guilty to running a botnet and "swatting" victims with hoax emergency telephone calls.

A Boston-area teenager has pleaded guilty to charges of hacking and placing fake emergency phone calls in hopes of summoning police tactical response teams to the homes of his victims.

The 16-year-old boy, who was not named by authorities because he is a juvenile, was known by his hacker name, Dshocker. In a plea-bargain agreement, he accepted an 11-month juvenile detention facility sentence and pleaded guilty to hacking and fraud charges stemming from his activities that stretched back to 2005, when he was about 13 years old.

The U.S. Department of Justice claims that the boy launched cyber attacks from a botnet of several thousand infected computers he controlled and also used stolen credit cards.

He was also charged with "swatting," a form of telephone hacking that has been on the FBI's radar lately. Swatters use legal phone-spoofing cards to make it appear as though they are dialing 911 emergency dispatch lines from the addresses of their victims. Swatting takes its name from the acronym SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics), used to describe elite police tactical response teams.

The idea is to disrupt the lives of people they don't like by having SWAT teams suddenly show up at their doors.

Dshocker's "swatting activities created a serious risk of physical harm to innocent victims, and the multiple bomb threats caused extensive disruptions to important public services," the Department of Justice said in a statement released Tuesday.

An adult charged with these offenses would be facing 10 years in prison, the statement said.

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