Judge slaps botmaster with jail time

A judge sentenced a malicious hacker to almost five years in prison for using botnets to distribute viruses and spam.

A malicious hacker was sentenced on Monday to almost five years in jail, the longest prison term given for spreading computer viruses, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement.

A judge sentenced Jeanson James Ancheta, of Downey, California, to 57 months in federal prison. After he ends his term, he will spend three more years on supervised release, and during that time he will have limited access to computers and to the Internet.

The 20-year old Ancheta pled guilty in January to federal criminal charges stemming from his activities creating and spreading viruses and profiting from them.

Specifically, Ancheta created botnets, surreptitiously taking over thousands of computers, and using them to launch Internet-based attacks. He also made those botnets available for a fee to spammers and other malicious hackers.

The type of stealth cybercrime perpetrated by Ancheta has become popular among malicious hackers in recent years, creating concern and problems for end users, businesses, law-enforcement agencies and IT vendors.

Judge R. Gary Klausner of the U.S. District Court of California, Central Division described Ancheta's crimes as "extensive, serious and sophisticated" during the sentencing hearing, according to the statement. "Your worst enemy is your own intellectual arrogance that somehow the world cannot touch you on this," Klausner told him.

Klausner could have sentenced Ancheta to up to 25 years in prison. In January, Ancheta pled guilty to conspiring to violate the Computer Fraud Abuse Act, conspiring to violate the CAN-SPAM Act, causing damage to computers used by the federal government in national defense, and accessing protected computers without authorization to commit fraud.

As part of the sentence, Ancheta will also have to pay about $US15,000 to some U.S. military institutions whose networks he intentionally damaged. In addition, the government took possession of about $US60,000 in cash, a car and computers belonging to Ancheta.