Teenage botmaster SoBe sentenced

Sophos reported in February how the teenage zombie herder who went by the nickname “SoBe” (his real identity has not been made public) had pleaded guilty to seizing control of almost 400,000 computers, and generating revenue by installing adware upon them.

Some of the computers compromised by SoBe’s antics were based at the Weapons Division of the US Naval Air Warfare Center in China Lake, California and at the US Department of Defense, which inevitably lead to the authorities showing great interest in tracking him down.

In a fascinating new feature published in The Register, journalist Dan Goodin exclusively reveals how he corresponded with SoBe, gaining a behind-the-scenes insight into the running of a botnet, following the indictment of co-conspirator Jeanson James Ancheta in November 2005.

Astonishingly, SoBe continued to hijack masses of computers, making cash to fuel his love for fast motorbikes and playing World of Warcraft, even after being raided by the FBI and the arrest of Ancheta.  You have to ask yourself whether hackers like SoBe are living in cloud-cuckoo-land when they continue to commit crimes, even when they know the authorities are onto them.

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Yesterday, SoBe was finally sentenced in a closed hearing in Los Angeles District Court. Although his actual sentence remains confidential because he was a juvenile at the time of his offences, The Register reports that his plea agreement proposed a jail sentence of 12-18 months.

Ancheta, who had recruited SoBe and was his partner-in-crime, was sentenced to a whopping 57 months in jail in May 2006.

To find out much more, I recommend you read Dan Goodin’s article on The Register: “I was a teenage bot master”.

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

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