US hacker pleads guilty to infecting hospital IT network

Normally I'm pretty laid back when I read about hackers gaining unauthorised access to the IT networks of major companies and government agencies, as there's often blame on both sides.

But not in the case of Chris Maxwell, a 20 year-old Californian, who has reportedly pleaded guilty to attacking the network of the Northwest Hospital and Medical Centre in Seattle with a series of zombie bot programs early last year.

According to newswire reports, Maxwell's bots effectively shut down computers in the hospital's intensive care unit, as well as preventing doctor's pagers from working properly.

Reports also suggest that he infected around 50,000 computers in total with various malware, causing around $130,000 worth of damage when infecting military computers.

As I said, normally I'm pretty laid back when it comes to attacks of this type, but in Maxwell's case, because he attacked a hospital network and quite probably endangered patient's lives, I'd cheerfully hold him up against a wall whilst he got a good kicking from the men in black.

Perhaps worse, Maxwell used his bots to install adware on infected computers, generating around $100,000 in revenue for himself and two other juveniles.

Commenting on the case, Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant with Sophos, said that creating a zombie network, or botnet, isn't a harmless game.

"In this case a hospital network was affected, and patients' welfare could have been put at risk through the stupidity of these hackers," he said.

According to Sophos, investigators discovered that Maxwell's botnet also damaged US military computer systems at the 5th Signal Command in Manheim, Germany, and at the Directorate of Information Management in Fort Carson, Colorado.

The IT security vendor say that Maxwell, who pleaded guilty to committing computer fraud and intentionally damaging a protected computer, could face a significant jail sentence and a fine of more than $250,000...