The Seattle Times covers last year’s hacking attack on Northwest Hospital and Medical Center that was supposedly perpetrated by 20-year-old Christopher Maxwell of Vacaville, California. With the help of two juvenile accomplices, the boys tried to enrich their own pockets, earning about $100,000 in the process, all while shutting down vital hospital infrastructure, according to investigators.
From the article:
“Botnet” may sound technical, but it describes a process that is relatively simple and is essentially one step beyond a computer virus.
A virus exploits software vulnerabilities to infect one computer, which then can transmit the infection to others. To create a botnet, hackers exploit the same sorts of vulnerabilities, then tell the infected computers to wait for further commands – in essence, creating computer sleeper cells. The so-called “bot-herder” commands thousands of these computers at once by taking control of a server, often secretly.
Like other hackers, Maxwell figured out a way to make money out of the deal, court papers state. He entered into affiliate relationships with several mainstream adware companies, which pay a commission each time their adware is installed.
Maxwell simply created a program instructing his infected computers, or “bots,” to download the adware. The bots then “phoned home” to the adware company, which credits the hacker’s account, unaware that he hasn’t gotten the computer owner’s permission.
Since 2004, Maxwell earned more on botnets than he did at his Wal-Mart job, according to court papers.
Thankfully no one died in the process, but Maxwell has been charged with one count of “intentional computer damage that interferes with medical treatment.”
Flashbacks: Medical records are wide open to computer hackers; Hackers may target pacemaker technology
(hat tip: Thomas Brander)