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Texas man cops to botnet-for-hire charges

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A Texas man has agreed to plead guilty to charges he trained a botnet on a popular internet service provider so he could demonstrate custom-made malware to a potential customer.

David Anthony Edwards of Mesquite, Texas admitted that in August 2006 he and alleged accomplice Thomas James Frederick Smith unleashed a flood of data on ThePlanet.com to demonstrate the effectiveness of bot software they called Nettick, according to court documents. The men allegedly told one purchaser they had 22,000 zombie machines under their control and would sell them for 15 cents apiece in minimum batches of 5,000.

Smith, most recently of Parris Island, South Carolina, has pleaded not guilty to the charges. A trial is scheduled to begin May 17.

In a plea agreement signed by Edwards, he also said that he and Smith breached servers operated by webhost, T35.net. They then extracted password files and made hundreds of thousands of user IDs and access codes available online, the document, filed in US District Court in Dallas, stated. The pair went on to deface the website, Edwards added.

According to an indictment, they also rebuked T35 admins with the words "How are all the users going to be compensated?"

Edwards, who went by the online handle Z00k, said the costs to T35.net were between $5,000 and $10,000. He is scheduled to enter his plea in court on Thursday. He faces a maximum of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and he will be required to pay restitution to the victims. ®

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