Generally, we think of identity theft as something that occurs when our names, social security numbers, and financial records are hijacked by a third party and used for their own betterment. However, the category of identity theft is being broadened even more and one computer identity theft case may have led the way.
Basics of the Case
Here is some basic information about this particular computer identity theft case. Back in 2007, a man named Robert Soloway was found guilty of identity theft by a jury in Seattle, Washington. He was convicted on 35 counts thanks to the 2004 Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act that allows courts to stack crimes on top of one another to increase the punishment for identity theft. In this case, the list of crimes ranged from email fraud to old-fashioned money laundering.
What He Did
So what kind of malicious scheme did this case involve? Soloway was stealing and using domain names. If you are not familiar with the term, a domain name is the main part of the address you type in to reach a web site. While he had no interest in the websites, he was able to use the domains and the computer networks that hosted them to create zombie computers.
The Zombie Computer Explained
Basically, the zombie computer, which is at the heart of this computer identity theft case, is a computer that has been taken over by a third party through hacking. With the computer in the control of this other person, it can be used to perform all sorts of illegal activities without the knowledge of the owner. This can have serious ramifications because if the computer is linked to the crimes, someone innocent could end up having to pay the price.
Use of the Computers
Although hacking into and developing zombie computers may sound thrilling, Soloway was using them to send out spam emails by the millions. He owned an Internet marketing company and used the spam messages to drive traffic to his site. Because spam is a violation of web hosting rules, the domain names he used for this purpose were all at risk of being banned by their hosting services as a result of his actions.
While he made an argument whether these crimes were an example of computer identity theft, the courts thought so and sentenced him accordingly. He was sentenced to nearly four years in prison after pleading guilty to only three of the charges against him. He also was fined over $700,000 for his actions.