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Young computer hacker convicted, attacked military network

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February 14, 2008

A teenage computer hacker has been accused of helping to damage more than 400,000 computers into a money-making illegal network, and has pleaded guilty to several criminal charges in connection with the incident, which he admitted damaged U.S. military computers and part of its vast network.

The teenage defendant has been identified only by the initials B.D.H. since he was just a juvenile when the computer crimes were committed in 2005. He is better known by the nickname "SoBe" in Internet relay channels frequented by would-be hackers.

B.D.H. appeared in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Feb. 11, where he pleaded guilty to two counts of juvenile fraud and delinquency. SoBe's plea agreement contemplates a sentence of one year to one year and-a-half in a federal prison.

According to specific court documents, the pair collected at least $58,000 in a little over a year. However, court officials and some supporting documents say it's possible they made much more.

B.D.H. entered the public spotlight two and a half years ago as an "unindicted co-conspirator" to Jeanson J. Ancheta, who eventually pleaded guilty to four felony charges in connection with the same botnet. With B.D.H. located in Boca Raton, Florida, and Ancheta working in Downey, California, the two orchestrated a lucrative business by surreptitiously installing adware on computers and then pocketing affiliate fees.

Among the military computers infected by SoBe and Ancheta were those belonging to the Defense Information Security Agency. SoBe also claimed to have infected machines maintained by Sandia National Laboratories.

While the two juvenile hackers at the time weren't able to write their own malware - they made modifications to a well-known program called rxbot - they showed some skill in varying the download times and rates of the adware installations. That allowed them to evade detection by network administrators and security analysts.

After collecting illegal fees, the two used the infected machines to seek and infect additional computers. "It's immoral, but the money makes it right," Ancheta told SoBe during one online chat, according to the indictment charging Ancheta.

Under federal guidelines, SoBe faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in custody, although juveniles can't be incarcerated beyond the age of 21. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 8.

"I just hope this thing lasts a while so I don't have to get a job right away," SoBe told Ancheta during a different conversation at that time that took place in an IRC (Internet Relay Chat) session.

The pair also discussed temporarily shutting down their operations in response to enforcement actions by the FBI. In May 2006, Ancheta, who was an adult at the time of the offense, was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison.

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Source: The U.S. Justice.

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