Suspected botnet herder rounded into court

A Federal grand jury as has charged a Brazilian with trying to damage and infect over 100,000 computers with a malicious botnet program that could have launched denial of service attacks, taken down networked systems or launched tons of spam.

According to the US Department of Justice, Leni de Abreu Neto, 35, of Taubate, Brazil, is charged with one count of conspiracy to cause damage to computers worldwide. If convicted, Neto faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and up to three years of supervised release. Neto also faces the greater of a $250,000 fine or the gross amount of any pecuniary gain or the gross amount of any pecuniary loss suffered by the victims.

A botnet is a network of infected computers that, unbeknownst to their owners, are compromised by a hacker and programmed to respond to a hacker's commands. The infected computers are referred to as "bots," "zombies," or "drones."

According to the indictment, Neto participated in a conspiracy along with others, including an unindicted co-conspirator, Nordin Nasiri, 19, of Sneek, Netherlands, to use, maintain, lease and sell an illegal botnet. The indictment alleges that prior to May 2008, Nasiri was responsible for creating a botnet known as Shadow, consisting of more than 100,000 computers worldwide, and that Neto used the botnet and paid for the servers on which the botnet was hosted. According to the indictment, between May and July 2008, Neto agreed initially with Nasiri, to use, maintain, lease and sell an illegal botnet, the DOJ alleges. The indictment alleges Neto expected the botnet to be used to send spam through the infected computers and Neto agreed with Nasiri to broker the sale of the botnet and underlying bot code to the third party for $37,000.

Neto is actually in jail already in the Netherlands and is awaiting extradition to the US.  Nasiri was apprehended by Dutch authorities and is being prosecuted by Dutch authorities in the Netherlands.

Recently a hacker who hooked up a botnet within Newell Rubbermaid's corporate network was sentenced to 41 months in prison. Robert Matthew Bentley, of Panama City, Florida, must also pay $65,000 restitution. He was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida.  According to an IDG News Service story, Bentley could have received a 10-year sentence. He pleaded guilty to charges of computer fraud and conspiracy to commit computer fraud for using the botnet to install advertising software on PCs located throughout Europe without permission.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation revealed last November that 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.

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