Hacker arrested for breaching DOD systems with 'botnets'

A California man will be arraigned Monday on federal charges that he breached computer security at Defense Department installations and profited by creating a so-called 'botnet''a network of computers used to launch viruses or send out huge amounts of junk e-mail, federal prosecutors said.

The arrest Thursday of 20-year-old Jeanson James Ancheta of Downey, Calif., is the first of its kind and a stark reminder that even the most secure computer system is vulnerable, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Central District of California.

'The good news is he did not breach the network for obtaining proprietary information,' said James Aquilina, assistant U.S. attorney for Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes. 'The concern is that he would be able to do it' if he wanted to, Aquilina added. 'That's the scary part.'

According to the 17-count indictment, Ancheta wrote malicious computer code that was spread to armies of infected computers. Access to this 'botnet' was then sold to others for the purpose of distributing denial-of-service attacks and sending junk e-mails.

Ancheta's desire to profit from the botnets makes the case unique, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

The indictment alleges Ancheta tapped into computer systems at the Weapons Division of the U.S. Naval Air Warfare Center in China Lake, Calif., as well as computers owned by the Defense Information Systems Agency.

Ancheta allegedly modified a known code for the botnet that, once past the systems' firewalls, got stronger and affected other computers, Aquilina said.

Aquilina could not disclose the level of damage to the federal systems, and added that the Defense Department was 'instrumental in helping to identify the breach.'

DOD's networks 'are very strong,' he said, but 'no system is impervious [to attack].'

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