Hacker Gonzalez to plead guilty in TJX hack; A hollow victory?

Albert Gonzalez, a hacker charged with stealing as many as 130 million credit and debit card numbers, will plead guilty to 19 counts of charges related to the TJX breach and surrender assets. Any cybercrime satisfaction, however, will be short-lived.

Albert Gonzalez, a hacker charged with stealing as many as 130 million credit and debit card numbers, will plead guilty to 19 counts of charges related to the TJX breach and surrender assets such as his Miami condo, BMW, Glock 27 firearm and PCs. Gonzalez will get 15 to 25 years under sentencing guidelines. Any cybercrime satisfaction, however, will be short-lived.

Simply put, the game is far from over. Gonzalez may be the mastermind or just the hacker taking the brunt of a wider cybercrime Web. These thefts aren't going to disappear and Gonzalez's accomplices are still at large. Gonzalez may have been the big dog, but he was far from the only one. Make no mistake: The Gonzalez plea is a victory for the Feds. But it may be a hollow one. Gonzalez's biggest mistake was operating on U.S. soil. Most cybercrime occurs offshore and out of reach of prosecutors.

That's why Gonzalez's plea deal---to be official on or before Sept. 11---is a bit of a nice little read but little more. Here's the PDF and original indictment.

In a nutshell, Gonzalez pleads guilty, stays in jail (he already is awaiting trail and forfeits a bunch of items including:

  • $1.65 million in cash;
  • a Glock27 firearm;
  • a condo in Miami;
  • a 2006 BMW 330I;
  • computer gear such as a Toshiba laptop, Everex Stepnote PC; Nokia phone. Maxtor 300 GB hard drive and a Sharp Zaurus PDA.

Federal prosecutors accused Gonzalez and others with stealing credit card and debit card numbers from TJX, BJ's, OfficeMax, Barnes & Noble and Sports Authority. The charges were lodged a year ago.

Also see: Alleged TJX hacker spun a wide web of cybercrime

Last month, Gonzalez was indicted for the data breaches at Heartland Payment Systems and others. That complaint alleges that Gonzalez was connected with the theft of 130 million credit and debit card numbers.

I'd feel a lot better if Gonzalez's international band of accomplices was headed behind bars too.