Two years’ jail for web crook who set up online hackers shop

A 21-year-old computer whizz who set up an online hackers shop and attacked websites with a ‘zombie’ computer army has been jailed – as West Midlands cyber detectives warn that tech crooks must face the prospect of spending time behind bars.

Alex Bessell created his own ‘Deep Web’ business called Aiobuy and made more than $700,000 in sales of harmful IT viruses.

More than 9,000 products were offered for sale on the site, including remote administration tools, Botnet tools, crypters, booter access and other malware and illegal items.

Cyber investigators from the West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit discovered around 35,000 purchases had been made through Aiobuy which had attracted more than 26,000 registered customers.

One product he offered for sale was a ‘crypter’ software package – which he designed – that hides bugs from computer users and makes them invisible to anti-virus systems.

And he also infected and controlled more than 9,000 ‘zombie’ computers to orchestrate Distributed Denial of Service (DdOS) attacks on firms like Skype, Pokemon and Google in an attempt to crash their online operations.

Bessell, from Liverpool, was jailed for two years today (Thurs 18 Jan) at Birmingham Crown Court after admitting a total of 10 offences, including unauthorised access to computers, impairing the operation of computers, making and supplying malware, and money laundering. Investigating officer DC Mark Bird – from the dedicated West Midlands Regional Cybercrime Unit – said:

“This is one of the most significant cybercrime prosecutions we’ve seen: he was offering an online service for anyone wanting to carry out a web attack. It meant anyone who had a grudge against an individual or company, or who simply wanted to conduct a cyber-attack, didn’t need the technical know-how themselves.

"They simply needed to pick a piece of malware, pay the fee, and Bessell would do the rest. In the past we have seen hackers escape with suspended prison sentences or even community orders but courts are increasingly switching onto the damage cyber crooks can wreak.

"They can destroy businesses and cause huge financial distress for people and families. Anyone who is using their technical expertise for sinister motives needs to sit up and take notice of this sentence – because they face a very real risk of being jailed.”

Investigators found Bessell had seized remote control of at least 9,083 ‘bots’ – computers under his command, infected without owner’s knowledge, which he used to launch DdOS attacks and send huge volumes of traffic in a bid to crash websites.

He used his zombie army to conduct 102 attacks on firms such as Pokemon, Skype and Google, stole 750 different usernames and passwords, and also caused compromised computers to download infected files.


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