Romanian Extradited to the United States, Charged With Selling Stolen Credit Card Information Obtained via Malware
DALLAS — Benjamin Earnest Nichols, 37, of Oklahoma City, appeared yesterday before U.S. Magistrate Judge David L. Horan and pleaded guilty to an Information charging one count of knowingly causing the transmission of a program or code to a protected computer, announced U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas.
Nichols, who is on bond, faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. A sentencing date was not set.
Nichols admitted that on or before May 2010, he knowingly and purposefully launched a distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack against mcgrewsecurity.com, a domain name and webserver owned by RWM, in an attempt to cause damage to the protected computer system and deny service to mcgrewsecurity.com, causing loss during a one-year period of between $5,000 and $6,500.
According to documents filed in the case, a (now) convicted defendant, Jesse McGraw, a former contract security guard at the North Central Medical Plaza in Dallas, was arrested in June 2009 on a criminal complaint filed in the Northern District of Texas that charged him with accessing, without authorization, protected computers in a medical facility. McGraw was indicted in July 2009, and in May 2010, he pleaded guilty to two counts of transmission of malicious code. McGraw was sentenced in March 2011 to serve a total of 110 months in federal prison.
At the time of his criminal conduct, McGraw was the self-proclaimed leader of the Electronic Tribulation Army (ETA), a hacking group. Nichols and others were also members of the ETA. McGraw intended to cause the remotely-controlled medical center computers to participate in a DDOS attack on a rival hacker group.
After interacting with RWM on blogs and in chat rooms, Nichols got angry at RWM for posting what he considered to be false and disparaging remarks on the blog at mcgrewsecurity.com. Nichols then used various means to harass and mock RWM, including setting up a derogatory website for RWM, posting disparaging photo-shopped photographs of RWM, and ordering sex toys to be sent to RWM’s home. In addition, Nichols also created/repurposed a bot that used computer code to respond to certain keywords by transmitting random insults and profanity to RWM’s internet relay chat (IRC) channel.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is conducting the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney C.S. Heath is in charge of the prosecution.
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