FBI ‘Bot Roast II: 1 million infected PCs, $20 million in losses and 8 indictments

The Federal Bureau of Investigation today revealed the second phase of its Operation ‘Bot Roast’ netted eight individuals that have been indicted, pled guilty, or been sentenced for crimes related to botnet activity.

Additionally, 13 search warrants were served in the U.S. and by overseas law enforcement partners in connection with the operation, the FBI said. This ongoing effort has thus far uncovered more than $20 million in economic loss and more than one million victim computers.

The botherders identified by the FBI  as part of Bot Roast II are as follows:

·          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 the University of Pennsylvania. 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.

·          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.

·          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. This investigation is being conducted by the U.S. Secret Service.

·          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.

·          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. Immigrations Customs Enforcement, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the Panama City Beach Police Department were active partners in this investigation.

·          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. This case was the first time in the U.S. that someone has been charged under the federal wiretap statute for conduct related to botnets.

·          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.

·          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.

“Today, botnets are the weapon of choice of cyber criminals. They seek to conceal their criminal activities by using third party computers as vehicles for their crimes. In Bot Roast II, we see the diverse and complex nature of crimes that are being committed through the use of botnets,” said FBI Director Robert S. Mueller. “Despite this enormous challenge, we will continue to be aggressive in finding those responsible for attempting to exploit unknowing Internet users.”

A botherder can gain control of computers by unleashing malicious software such as viruses, worms, or trojan horses. By executing a simple task such as opening an attachment, clicking on an advertisement, or providing personal information to a phishing site (a fraudulent site that mimics a legitimate site), an individual computer user has unintentionally allowed unauthorized access. Bot operators will then typically use these compromised computers as vehicles to facilitate other actions such as commit identity theft, launch denial of service attacks, and install keystroke loggers.

In June the Department of Justice and FBI announced Operation Bot Roast and at that time said  ongoing investigations have identified over 1 million botnet crime victims. The FBI is working with industry partners, including the Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Center at Carnegie Mellon University, to notify the victim owners of the computers. Microsoft and the Botnet Task Force have also helped out the FBI. Through this process the FBI may uncover additional incidents in which botnets have been used to facilitate other criminal activity, the FBI said in a statement.  

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