Computer security consultant and convicted cyber intruder Max Butler has been indicted on counts of wire-fraud and identity theft, just five years after being released from prison for hacking into military and defense contractor computers.
Max Butler, 35, of San Francisco (AKA Max Vision, AKA Iceman) was indicted by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh on three counts of wire fraud and two counts of transferring stolen identify information. Federal authorities allege that he stole "tens of thousands" of credit card numbers and personal information by hacking into financial institutions and credit card processing companies. He could face up to 40 years in prison and a $1.5m fine if convicted of the charges.
Butler was charged in Pittsburgh because he allegedly sold more than 100 credit card numbers to a Pennsylvania resident who cooperated in the investigation, said a spokeswoman for US Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan. The co-conspirator had told investigators he illegally obtained 1,000 or more credit card numbers a month from Butler.
Authorities also believe Butler operated a website called Cardersmarket, which served as a forum and aid for credit card thieves, according to the Associated Press. Butler currently remains in federal custody in California and will return to Pittsburgh to face the charges.
The indictment alleges that Butler contacted people through email to sell stolen card numbers. Witnesses told agents that Butler moved to various hotel rooms where he would use a high-powered antenna to intercept wireless communications, the AP reports. He would use the information obtained to hack into the institutions. One witness said Butler gained access to the Pentagon Federal Credit Union, Citibank and a government employee's computer.
Federal authorities have not yet revealed the exact breadth of the credit card thievery, or if they plan to alert potential victims.
In May 2001, Butler was sentenced in a federal court after pleading guilty to launching an automated intrusion program that cracked hundreds of military and defense contractor computers. Butler admitted to developing the program, which created a back door on the systems he penetrated — which could have been used to gain access at a later date. ®
The US Department of Justice's Cyberethics for Kids page recommends against these practices:
"Some kids think they can't get into trouble for hacking computer systems and that hacking big networks like the phone company, the military, or NASA is harmless fun. But that's not true..."
But gee whiz, I'm really good at computers Mr. Federal Agent.
"If you like computers, don't use your brains to hack systems, invade other people's privacy, and take away their networks. Hacking can get you in a whole lot more trouble than you think and is a completely creepy thing to do."
C-creepy? But maybe I could get a job with computers...
"People are not going to want to hire you to protect computers if you've been a hacker. It's a question of trust, not skill." **