A judge in America has shown once again that cyber villains will not escape with an easy punishment, after she sentenced 21 year old Christopher Maxwell to 37 months in prison for infecting thousands of Windows computers with adware.
The criminal operation is an attractive proposition to hackers and the like as it offers a lucrative payout for relatively low risk. Before he was caught, Christopher Maxwell was able to make more that $100,000 in commissions; earning money through ‘affiliate’ schemes with marketing companies that gave him between 2 and 40 cents per piece of adware installed.
Maxwell, who fought back tears whilst in the dock said to the judge: "I am a 21-year-old boy with a good heart and I made a mistake. I never realized how dangerous a computer could be. I thank God no one was hurt." The government’s policy has been to make examples of hackers in an attempt to dissuade others from distributing the adware.
Unfortunately for Maxwell, his ‘botnet’ (a term used to describe his network of bots that distributed the software) targeted various US government computers, including military, school and hospital networks. All three had representatives testify against the Walmart employee, Maxwell.
The plan to use cases like this as a deterrent is probably not the best way to go about preventing people distributing illegal software. For one, most of the people distributing adware to American computers don’t live in American themselves; secondly, the process of discovering who is orchestrating the distribution is not a simple task. It would seem more logical to attack the problem at its root, stop the companies from paying people to distribute adware. Surely it is that simple?
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