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True crime: The botnet barons

True crime: The botnet barons

Two weeks ago, the feds revealed the names of eight people who had used botnets to engage in nefarious activity. Here are their stories

The site, well known in the security community as a resource to track malware trends, was virtually shut down while the site's operators dealt with an attack that, at its peak, flooded its ISP with 969 megabits per second of traffic, an insanely massive volume that all but shut down not only the site, but Castlecops' entire ISP, ApplicationX, during the highest point of the attack.

As for KillaNet, King caused thousands of dollars in losses of time and content due to multiple attacks on the site's Web server, according to a KillaNet press release announcing King's indictment.

If convicted, King faces four counts of "transmission of code to cause damage to a protected computer," with a maximum penalty of ten years in prison and US$250,000 in fines for each count.

The Perp: Azizbek Mamadjanov Convicted of: Wire fraud, enabled by phishing, Sentenced: June, 2007, to two years in prison

Mamadjanov's crimes fall about as far to the fringe of what's considered a cybercrime as you can get -- in this case, it was clearly a fraud that was simply enabled by the use of stolen online banking information. The 21-year-old resident of Florida. registered a fake landscaping business with the state, created business bank accounts using the social security numbers of people who had died, and then used fraudulently obtained banking information stolen from Internet users to transfer money from the victims' accounts to his own.

In July, 2006, he tricked a victim into divulging his account details using a phishing attack, then transferred US$40,000 into his own account. Within about 24 hours of the transfer, Mamadjanov made four US$10,000 withdrawals, each from a different branch of the bank where his business account was set up, Capital City Bank.

A few days later, Mamadjinov repeated the crime using a different victim's stolen credentials and a different business account he'd earlier established at AmSouth Bank. This time, he transferred US$39,823 from the victim's account to his own, and made another quartet of US$10,000 withdrawals from four different AmSouth Bank branches. Apparently, that much cash moving around finally caught someone's attention.

The Perp: Aleksandr Paskalov Convicted of: Wire fraud, enabled by phishingSentenced: Oct. 12, 2007 to 42 months in prison

Azizbek Mamadjanov's friend Aleksandr was his partner in crime. He was sentenced four months after Mamadjanov to prison for engaging in what was, essentially, a copycat fraud using phished credentials to transfer money from the bank accounts of victims into fake business banking accounts Paskalov set up. But where Mamadjanov only managed to get around US$80,000 using the scheme, Paskalov more than doubled his partner's success, netting about US$170,000 in proceeds.

Paskalov duplicated virtually the entire Mamadjanov operation, including the use of social security numbers of dead people to set up business bank accounts at five different Florida banks. Within a short period of performing a wire transfer from the victims' bank accounts to his own, he would then travel to several branches, withdrawing a portion of the transferred money at each one.

In an apparent attempt at cleverness, Paskalov withdrew money from the accounts in odd quantities. For example, on April 3, 2006, he went to five separate branches of Colonial Bank and had cashier's checks drawn in the amounts of US$3983.99, US$2992.88, US$3303.68, US$4992.03, and US$4406.68.

The subterfuge didn't work. Paskalov was caught and can reminisce with his friend in federal prison for the next two years.

The Perp: Jason Downey Convicted of: operating an IRC-based botnet that caused numerous distributed denial-of-service attacksSentenced: on Oct. 23, 2007 to 1 year in prison, followed by probation, restitution, and community service

Downey, the 24-year-old so-called Kentucky Botmaster, operated two IRC networks -- Rizon.net and Yotta-byte.net -- used by himself and other bot-herders as a command-and-control system for a network of bots used to engage in DDoS attacks against other IRC networks. Using the online pseudonym Nessun, he was accused of complicity in a series of attacks dating back to May 2004.


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