26 year old John Kenneth Schiefer from Los Angeles is facing 60 years in prison and a US$1.75m fine for infecting 250,000 computers with the intention of stealing information. This is exactly the kind of person I’ve been writing here about in the hope everyone can avoid being a victim. It would be useful to know how serious and widespread these crimes are, and how serious it all is.
He ran what’s known as a botnet. This is when malware (viruses, trojans, etc) is installed on a large number of victim’s computers and controlled from one central location. 250,000 infected computers makes a large botnet. That’s a lot of victims, real people who didn’t know someone else was remotely using their computer and stealing their money.
In this case he allegedly stole money from people’s Paypal accounts. It’s not a problem with Paypal’s system, the problem lies in people using compromised computers.
One lesson to be learnt is that you should never shop or bank online on a computer you don’t trust. And a large part of that trust in a computer comes from using an up to date internet security package (an antivirus program).
Another import lesson for everyone is that these criminals are real, and their operations are large and widespread.
Read some articles on his case here.