Feeds

Autistic trucking scam hacker jailed for 55 months

Quality of mercy

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

A convicted hacker with Asperger’s Syndrome has been given a slightly reduced sentence of 55 months imprisonment over his involvement in a multi-million dollar trucking scam.

The judges' scant degree of leniency in dealing with an Asperger's sufferer will be closely watched by supporters of Pentagon hacker, Gary McKinnon.

Viachelav Berkovich, 34, received a sentence two years less than his co-defendant Nicholas Lakes, 36, who was jailed to 70 months last month, Wired reports. Berkovich's sentence was 23 months less than the minimum for his offence stipulated by federal sentencing guidelines after a judge took his disability into consideration as a mitigating factor.

Berkovich and Lakes pleaded guilty back in February to running an elaborate fraud over three years. The duo hacked into the Department of Transportation Safersys.org website in order to pose as trucking agents and search "load boards" for prospective marks. The hackers changed the contact details for a legitimate trucking firm to refer to addresses and phone numbers under their control.

They set about negotiating a deal to transport cargo before outsourcing this work to a third-party haulage firm so that the goods would actually be delivered. The hackers collected the money from the transportation clients before the haulage firm who actually did the work tried to get paid, discovering in the process that the firm that supposedly hired them knew nothing about the contract.

The hackers carried off the elaborate man-in-the-middle attack for months, as explained in an affidavit here (PDF). Lakes masterminded the scheme and led the vulnerable Berkovich into a life of crime, according to Berkovich's lawyers.

"We’re not excusing his behavior," defence lawyer Kiana Sloan-Hillier told Wired. "He's taken responsibility, and he knows that he shouldn't have gotten involved with this. But some people are more vulnerable than others."

Berkovich immigrated illegally into the US in 1999 and was close to becoming homeless when Lakes befriended him and brought him into his computer fraud racket. As well as sentencing Berkovich to a lengthy spell behind bars a judge ordered him to pay $2.7m compensation to 300 victims. Prosecutors has already recovered $1.4m in ill-gotten gains from Lakes.

The sentence against Berkovich suggests US court are prepared to take suffering from Asperger's Syndrome into account as a mitigating factor in sentencing but not as a reason to impose a suspended sentence or radically reduced sentence where a lengthy spell behind bars might normally be expected.

The handling of the Berkovich case is therefore bad news for fellow Asperger’s sufferer, Gary McKinnon, who recently lost his judicial review against extradition to the US on hacking offences. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Ice cream headache as black hat hacks sack Dairy Queen
I scream, you scream, we all scream 'DATA BREACH'!
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
JLaw, Kate Upton exposed in celeb nude pics hack
100 women victimised as Apple iCloud accounts reportedly popped
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
Researchers camouflage haxxor traps with fake application traffic
Honeypots sweetened to resemble actual workloads, complete with 'secure' logins
Attack flogged through shiny-clicky social media buttons
66,000 users popped by malicious Flash fudging add-on
New Snowden leak: How NSA shared 850-billion-plus metadata records
'Federated search' spaffed info all over Five Eyes chums
Three quarters of South Korea popped in online gaming raids
Records used to plunder game items, sold off to low lifes
Oz fed police in PDF redaction SNAFU
Give us your metadata, we'll publish your data
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.