21-Year-Old Hacker Sentenced to Nearly Five Years in Prison

A 21-year-old computer whiz was sentenced to nearly five years in federal prison for taking control of 400,000 Internet-connected computers and renting access to them to spammers and fellow hackers.

Among the machines authorities said Jeanson James Ancheta infected in 2004 and 2005 were those at the China Lake Naval Air Facility and the Defense Information System Agency headquartered in Falls Church, Va.

"Your worst enemy is your own intellectual arrogance that somehow the world cannot touch you on this," U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner told Ancheta in sentencing him Monday to 57 months in prison.

Ancheta, of Downey, Calif., pleaded guilty in January to four felony charges.

Authorities said he received more than $107,000 for downloading adware — software that can track a user's Internet browsing habits and deliver pop-up ads — onto infected computers and selling access to hackers and spammers.

A Web site he maintained included a schedule of prices and guidelines for the technology necessary to bring down a particular type of Web site.

Prosecutors said the case was among the first to target profits derived from use of "botnets," large numbers of computers that hackers commandeer through software and then turn into a "zombie" network that can be controlled by outsiders.

The computers' owners are typically unaware that parasitic programs have been installed on their machines that allow outsiders to operate them.