Stupid hacker tricks: The folly of youth

Tech-savvy delinquents set the Net aflame with boneheaded exploits that earn them the wrong kind of fame

The worst paid cybercriminal in federal prison

Perp: Robert Moore

Status: Moore is currently a guest of the federal prison system and will remain so until 2009.

Dossier: As one of the oldest members of this youthful brigade of miscreants, Robert Moore, 23, was involved in crimes that caused among the greatest financial losses to his victims of anyone featured in this rogue roundup -- though he didn't reap many financial rewards himself.

Federal agents claim in court papers that Moore, and the ringleader of the scheme Edwin Pena, defrauded at least 15 VoIP phone companies to the tune of more than US$300,000 each in broadband service charges by hacking into the VoIP companies' networks and then reselling stolen phone call minutes at a deep discount.

Pena, who lacked the technical skills to pull off the scam alone, recruited Moore to do his hacker thing, which he accomplished with aplomb. But while Moore did manage to pull off the scam for nearly two years before getting caught, his success wasn't due to any superior hacking skills on his part.

In an interview Moore gave just before his incarceration began, he explained that his job was made all the easier by system administrators who never changed the passwords on their Cisco routers and Quintum Tenor VoIP gateways from the default factory settings. Moore threw together an application that scanned IP address ranges for vulnerable boxes and then used those routers to send the call traffic through the busiest hacked networks, which masked the large amounts of data.

Pena made well over US$1 million reselling the more than 10 million stolen minutes; Moore was reported to have been paid just US$20,000 by Pena for his part in the scheme. With his ill-gotten proceeds, Pena bought houses in six states, luxury cars (including two BMWs and a Cadillac Escalade), and a 40-foot Sea Ray MerCruiser yacht. Moore reportedly is more annoyed that he cannot use a computer than the fact that he was sentenced to two years in federal pokey.

"It's so easy, a caveman can do it," Moore said in the interview. Cavemen were reportedly pissed at, once again, being presented in a negative light by a guy who himself got shafted -- twice -- by his partner in crime.

Moore ended up surrendering when federal agents showed up at his door. When Pena was arrested, the mother of Pena's girlfriend put up two of her properties as collateral on Pena's bail; once out of jail, Pena promptly fled the country and is believed to be in Venezuela, leaving everyone high and dry.

Lessons learned: If your partner in your massive criminal enterprise is making 50 times what you're making, but you're both sharing an equal risk of prosecution, look for a better-paying job in another criminal enterprise. Also, if you're the mastermind's girlfriend (or her mom), and you've paid for his bail with your house, for the love of god hide his passport.

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Andrew Brandt

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