US consultant pleads guilty to identity theft: authorities

A 26-year-old computer consultant pleaded guilty Wednesday to raiding hundreds of thousands of computers with spyware to steal users' identities and commit fraud.

John Schiefer, who worked as a computer security expert, "admitted that he gained access without authorization to hundreds of thousands of computers in the United States and that he remotely controlled these compromised machines through computer servers," federal prosecutors said in a statement.

"Once in control of the 'zombie" computers, Schiefer used his botnets to search for vulnerabilities in other computers, intercept electronic communications and engage in identity theft," the US Attorney's office said.

Schiefer pleaded guilty to gaining access to protected computers to conduct fraud, divulging illegally intercepted electronic communications, wire fraud and bank fraud, the statement said.

He is the first person in the country to plead guilty to wiretapping charges in connection with the use of botnets, or computers controlled remotely, authorities said.

Schiefer, who used the online name "acidstorm," is to be sentenced on August 20. He faces a maximum of 60 years in federal prison and a fine of 1.75 million dollars.

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