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Friday, March 26, 2010

Hacker gets 20 years for stealing credit card data

American Scofflaw
One down, how many to go??

A computer hacker from Miami who orchestrated one of the largest theft of credit and debit card numbers in U.S. history was sentenced Thursday to 20 years in prison after he apologized for leading a scheme that cost companies, banks and insurers nearly $200 million.

Albert Gonzalez, a one-time federal informant, pleaded guilty last year to breaking into the computer networks of major retailers, including TJX Cos., BJ's Wholesale Club, Barnes & Noble, OfficeMax, and the restaurant chain Dave & Buster's.

U.S. District Judge Patti Saris sentenced Gonzalez to the middle of the 15- to 25-year range spelled out in a plea agreement Gonzalez reached with prosecutors.

Just before he was sentenced, the 28-year-old Gonzalez apologized as his mother, father and sister watched from the front row of the courtroom. His father wept softly and dabbed his eyes with a handkerchief.

Gonzalez said he did it not out of greed, but instead "because of my inability to stop my pursuit" and "my (Internet) addiction."

"I blame nobody but myself," he said.

He said he did not give much thought to people whose credit and debit card numbers were stolen. "I always thought that they were being made whole by their financial institutions," he said.

Authorities said Gonzalez amassing $2.8 million he used to buy a Miami condo, a car, Rolex watches and a Tiffany ring for his girlfriend. They said Gonzalez and two foreign co-defendants would drive past retailers with a laptop computer, tapping into those with vulnerable wireless Internet signals. The trio would then install "sniffer programs" that picked off credit and debit card numbers as they moved through a retailer's computers before trying to sell the numbers overseas, authorities said.

Gonzalez, who was known online as "soupnazi," was a self-taught computer genius.

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