By DAN GOODIN AP Technology Writer
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A 20-year-old hacker admitted Monday to
surreptitiously seizing control of hundreds of thousands of
Internet-connected computers, using the zombie network to serve pop-up
ads and renting it to people who mounted attacks on Web sites and sent
Jeanson James Ancheta, of Downey, Calif., pleaded guilty in Los
Angeles federal court to four felony charges for crimes, including
infecting machines at two U.S. military sites, that earned him more
than $61,000, said federal prosecutor James Aquilina.
Under a plea agreement, which still must be approved by a judge,
Ancheta faces up to 6 years in prison and must pay the federal
government restitution. He also will forfeit his profits and a 1993
BMW. Sentencing is schedule for May 1.
Prosecutors called the case the first to target profits derived from
use of "botnets," large numbers of computers that hackers commandeer
and marshal for various nefarious deeds. The "zombie" machines' owners
are unaware that parasitic programs have been installed on them and
are being controlled remotely.
Botnets are being used increasingly to overwhelm Web sites with
streams of data, often by extortionists. They feed off of
vulnerabilities in computers that run Microsoft Corp.'s Windows
operating system, typically machines whose owners haven't bothered to
install security patches.
A November indictment charged Ancheta with 17 counts of conspiracy,
fraud and other crimes connected to a 14-month hacking spree that
started in June 2004 and that authorities say continued even after FBI
agents raided his house the following December.