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Man Gets 3 Years for Botnet Attack on DoD, Hospital, Schools

A man was sentenced to three years in prison Friday for launching a computer attack that hit tens of thousands of computers, including some belonging to the Department of Defense, a Seattle hospital and a California school district.

Christopher Maxwell, 21, of Vacaville, Calif., was also sentenced to three years of supervised release. He pleaded guilty in May to federal charges of conspiracy to intentionally cause damage to a protected computer and conspiracy to commit computer fraud.

U.S. District Judge Marsha J. Pechman said the crime showed "incredible self-centeredness" with little regard for the impact on others. She said the prison time was needed as "deterrence for all those youth out there who are squirreled away in their basements hacking."

Defense attorney Steve Bauer had sought probation and community service, noting his client had no prior criminal record and saying Maxwell did not intend his robot virus program to spread as far as it did.

Maxwell and two juvenile co-conspirators were accused of using "botnet" attacks -- programs that let hackers infect and control a computer network -- to install unwanted Internet advertising software, a job that earned them about $100,000.

Three victims testified at Maxwell's sentencing: a representative of Seattle's Northwest Hospital, damaged in February 2005; a representative of the U.S. Defense Department, which reported damage to hundreds of computers worldwide in 2004 and 2005; and a former system administrator for the Colton Unified School District in California, where more than 1,000 computers were damaged over several months in 2005.

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