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Suspected bot master busted

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“ This is the first case to charge someone for using bots for generating profits. On the one hand, he is selling bots to other people so that they can (perform) denial-of-service attacks and spam to make money. And on the other hand, he is using bots to make affiliate income. ”

James Aquilina, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Central District of California

Prosecutors soon determined that a single person was behind both events and quickly focused on Ancheta. In raids executed in December 2004 and in May 2005 on Ancheta's Downey, California residence, prosecutors seized three computers and discovered chat logs that described numerous sales of small numbers of bots and the success of an alleged collaboration with a Florida man to garner affiliate fees through click fraud.

According to the indictment, Ancheta created a customized version of a publicly available bot software package known as "rxbot". He allegedly used the software to infect nearly 400,000 systems. While he made nearly $3,000 selling hundreds or thousands of compromised machines to would-be bot herders, the vast majority of his profit was from installing adware on the compromised systems and using them to generate pay-for-click affiliate fees, according to the indictment.

Ancheta allegedly received checks from GammaCash, an affiliate program run by Gamma Entertainment, and from LOUDcash, a program run by CDT, which was acquired by advertising firm 180solutions. Renamed Zango in April, 180solutions' CDT subsidiary had already canceled Ancheta's account, according to company spokesman Sean Sundwall.

The Bellevue, Washington-based company, whose past advertising tactics gained the ire of many Internet users, has aggressively pursued click fraudsters, Sundwall said.

On Thursday, the company announced that it had cooperated with the FBI in a separate investigation against the three Dutch men arrested in October on charges of controlling 1.5 million compromised PCs. While the company had not worked with the FBI and Department of Justice on the latest case, executives extended the offer to help, he said.

The company has also created a more secure version of its advertising software that should prevent the program from being installed without a computer users' knowledge, Sundwall said. The software will be released before the end of the year.

"We are aiming to remove any financial incentive (for fraudsters) to do this sort of thing," he said.

Ancheta appeared briefly in court on Thursday and is being held pending post-indictment arraignment on Monday and a bail hearing set for Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Aquilina said.

If found guilty of all charges, Ancheta could be sentenced to a maximum of 50 years in prison.

Copyright © 2005, SecurityFocus

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