FBI crackdown nabs 8 botnet herders

Summary:The FBI today announced the arrest of eight U.S. men accused to hijacking PCs for use in a million-strong botnet that accounted for $20 million in economic loss.

The FBI today announced the arrest of eight U.S. men accused to hijacking PCs for use in a million-strong botnet that accounted for $20 million in economic loss.

In its "Bot Roast II" crackdown, the FBI said it also served 13 search warrants in the U.S. and overseas against cyber-criminals involved with herding botnets.

[SEE: ‘Operation Bot Roast’ nets million-strong botnet operation ]

From the FBI announcement:

FBI offices participating in Bot Roast II included Cincinnati, Detroit, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Sacramento, and Washington, D.C. As happens most often with complex cyber investigations, there was valuable intelligence sharing amongst law enforcement agencies that led to the success of Bot Roast II. Exchange of information between the U.S. Secret Service, the New Zealand Police, and the FBI led to the initiation and enhancement of additional botnet investigations. In one example, authorities in New Zealand, working in collaboration with the FBI Philadelphia Office, conducted a search this week at the residence of an individual who goes by the cyber ID of AKILL. AKILL is believed to be the ringleader of an elite international botnet coding group that is responsible for infecting more than one million computers.

Among those arrested are:

  1. Ryan Brett Goldstein, 21, of Ambler, Pennsylvania, was indicted on 11/01/07 by a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for botnet related activity which caused a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack at a major Philadelphia area university. In the midst of this investigation the FBI was able to neutralize a vast portion of the criminal botnet by disrupting the botnet's ability to communicate with other botnets. In doing so, it reduced the risk for infected computers to facilitate further criminal activity. This investigation continues as more individuals are being sought.
  2. Adam Sweaney, 27, of Tacoma, Washington, pled guilty on September 24, 2007 in U.S. District Court, District of Columbia, to a one count felony violation for conspiracy fraud and related activity in connection with computers. He conspired with others to send tens of thousands of email messages during a one-year period. In addition, Sweaney surreptitiously gained control of hundreds of thousands of bot controlled computers. Sweaney would then lease the capabilities of the compromised computers to others who launched spam and DDoS attacks.
  3. Robert Matthew Bentley of Panama City, Florida, was indicted on 11/27/07 by a federal grand jury in the Northern District of Florida for his involvement in botnet related activity involving coding and adware schemes.
  4. Alexander Dmitriyevich Paskalov, 38, multiple U.S. addresses, was sentenced on 10/12/2007 in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida, and received 42 months in prison for his participation in a significant and complex phishing scheme that targeted a major financial institution in the Midwest and resulted in multi-million dollar losses.
  5. Azizbek Takhirovich Mamadjanov, 21, residing in Florida, was sentenced in June 2007 in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida, to 24 months in prison for his part in the same Midwest bank phishing scheme as Paskalov. Paskalov established a bogus company and then opened accounts in the names of the bogus company. The phishing scheme in which Paskolov and Mamadjanov participated targeted other businesses and electronically transferred substantial sums of money into their bogus business accounts.
  6. John Schiefer, 26, of Los Angeles, California, agreed to plead guilty on 11/8/2007 in U.S. District Court in the Central District of California, to a four felony count criminal information. A well-known member of the botnet underground, Schiefer used malicious software to intercept Internet communications, steal usernames and passwords, and defraud legitimate businesses. Schiefer transferred compromised communications and usernames and passwords and also used them to fraudulently purchase goods for himself.
  7. Gregory King, 21, of Fairfield, California, was indicted on 9/27/2007 by a federal grand jury in the Central District of California on four counts of transmission of code to cause damage to a protected computer. King allegedly conducted DDoS attacks against various companies including a web based company designed to combat phishing and malware.
  8. Jason Michael Downey, 24, of Dry Ridge, Kentucky, was sentenced on 10/23/2007 in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, to 12 months in prison followed by probation, restitution, and community service for operating a large botnet that conducted numerous DDoS attacks that resulted in substantial damages. Downey operated Internet Relay Chat (IRC) network Rizon. Downey stated that most of the attacks he committed were on other IRC networks or on the people that operated them. Downey's targets of DDoS often resided on shared servers which contained other customer's data. As a result of DDoS to his target, innocent customers residing on the same physical server also fell victim to his attacks. One victim confirmed financial damages of $19,500 as a result of the DDoS attacks.

Topics: Hardware, Government, Government : US, Security

About

Ryan Naraine is a journalist and social media enthusiast specializing in Internet and computer security issues. He is currently security evangelist at Kaspersky Lab, an anti-malware company with operations around the globe. He is taking a leadership role in developing the company's online community initiative around secure content managem... Full Bio

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