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Indian American teenager gets 5 years for hacking

By Suman Guha Mozumder in New York
September 01, 2005 22:10 IST
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An Indian-American teenager, described by prosecutors as an online gangster, was sentenced to five years in prison by a New Jersey Superior Court judge last month for hacking into online businesses, costing them over $1.5 million in revenue losses.

In addition to serving the sentence, Jasmine Singh, 17, of Edison in Middlesex County, New Jersey, was also ordered by Judge Frederick DeVesa to pay restitution to the tune of $35,000.

The judge said he imposed the jail term because he wanted to send a strong message that such conduct was not acceptable.

'I have no doubt this defendant did not intend to hurt anyone. But the potential of grave harm is here and if I only leveled a fine, it would be seen as just an operating expense – a cost of doing business,' the judge was quoted as saying by the Star-Ledger newspaper. 'To allow anyone to think they could engage in this conduct and walk away with a fine is unacceptable,' he said.

Singh pleaded guilty May 5, admitting that between July and December of 2004 he repeatedly sabotaged an online seller's web site that sold throw-back licensed professional athletic jerseys over the Internet by using a 'bot net' to make their Internet server go offline for long periods of time.

As a result of each attack, the web site was essentially halted, and more than $1.5 million in site revenues were lost. Members of the New Jersey State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Singh at his home on March 18.

A joint investigation by the New Jersey State Police, the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice's Computer Analysis and Technology Unit and the FBI determined that Singh was hired by Jason Arabo, an 18-year-old resident of Southfield, Michigan, to launch more than 60 Distributed Denial of Service Attacks.

Essentially, this meant the web site was flooded with data via a computer virus, so much so that at one point a major Internet service provider in Pennsylvania was shut down and operations of online retailers, banks and other businesses were disrupted.

Arabo was attempting to launch a competitor site to sell throwback jerseys. Singh generated the series of attacks by compromising computers throughout the world with the virus. Singh then directed infected computers to send the victim's company trillions of packets of data every hour.

The newspaper said Singh, who works at a gas station and takes evening classes at an adult school, told the judge that he was not aware of the consequences of his actions. He said he received some pairs of sneakers and other items as compensation from Arabo. Authorities are separately investigating Arabo, who is free on a $50,000 bond.

Singh's attorney Lawrence Bitterman told the judge that his client has since infancy lived with relatives in California and India because of a volatile relationship between his parents, and did not get a chance to make friends, have peers or gain self-respect.

'Some people like that join gangs or deal drugs, but Mr Singh went onto computer. He is a lost soul,' the lawyer has been quoted as telling the judge.

In May, Singh pleaded guilty to two counts of computer theft, both in the second degree. Although a juvenile, he was sentenced after being waived up to adult court. He will serve the time at a juvenile facility because of his age.

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Suman Guha Mozumder in New York