30 year old Joshua Schichtel of Phoenix, AZ pled guilty in 2011 in the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. of to one count of violating the Computer Abuse and Fraud Act. The charges resulted from Schichtel accepting $1,500 from an unnamed individual to infect approximately 72,000 computers with software designed to allow remote control of those computers for malicious purposes. Although the Department of Justice stated that evidence indicated that Schichtel had created these networks of controlled computers, commonly known as “botnets”, for several other individuals he was only convicted on the single charge. In addition to the 30 month sentence Schichtel was ordered to serve three years of supervised probation after his release from prison.
Schichtel was also named in a complaint in 2004 along with several other individuals alleging involvement in a similar botnet operation but the government failed to secure indictments within the specified time and the charges were dismissed.
Botnets are among the most common and prolific types of computer crime with millions of PC’s infected worldwide. These computers are then used without their owners consent or knowledge to distribute spam, steal personal information, facilitate denial of service attacks, and other types of cybercrime. In recent years botnet operators have become increasingly sophisticated and competitive.
Affiliates can easily become lax about protecting their computers against this threat because they’re already so busy running their programs, but unfortunately malicious software and botnets are here to stay, and maintaining a constant vigilance against becoming a virtual robot for the enrichment of unscrupulous individuals is just another cost of doing business.
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