Follow Us

We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message

3 men plead guilty to building CAPTCHA network

The botnet flooded online ticket vendors and sold tickets for concerts and TV tapings

Article comments

Three California men have pleaded guilty charges they built a network of CAPTCHA-solving computers that flooded online ticket vendors and snatched up the very best seats for Bruce Springsteen concerts, Broadway productions and even TV tapings of Dancing with the Stars.

The men ran a company called Wiseguy Tickets, and for years they had an inside track on some of the best seats in the house at many events. They scored about 1.5 million tickets after hiring Bulgarian programmers to build "a nationwide network of computers that impersonated individual visitors" on websites such as Ticketmaster, MLB.com and LiveNation, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) said Thursday in a press release.

Kenneth Lowson, Kristofer Kirsch, and Joel Stevenson pleaded guilty to hacking and wire fraud charges Thursday in US District Court for the District of New Jersey. Lowell and Kirsch face a maximum of five years in prison. Stevenson, who pleaded guilty to just one count of hacking, faces a year. They had been indicted in February and are now set to be sentenced on March 15, 2011.

A fourth Wiseguy Tickets partner, Chief Financial Officer Faisal Nadhi, is still at large, the DoJ said.

Their scheme was remarkably successful. When Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band played Giants Stadium in July 2008, nearly half of the 440 general admission floor tickets were snatched up by the Wiseguy Tickets network.

The network would "flood vendors computers at the exact moment that event tickets went on sale," the DoJ said. With computerised CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart)-solving, the bots were able to complete transactions faster than any human, giving them an edge in snatching up tickets for the Major League Baseball playoffs, the Rose Bowl and many concerts.

They had to create shell corporations, register hundreds of fake Internet domains (one was stupidcellphone.com) and sign up for thousands of bogus e-mail addresses to make the scam work.

Wiseguy Tickets then resold the tickets to brokers, at a profit.

"These defendants made money by combining age-old fraud with new-age computer hacking," the DoJ said in its press release.

The company operated between 2002 and 2009, under names such as Wiseguys, Seats of San Francisco, Smaug, and Platinum Technologies.

The Bulgarian contractors used by Wiseguy Tickets were paid between $1,000 to $1,500 a month, the DoJ said in court filings.

The CAPTCHA test was designed to prevent this type of fraud from happening. It displays the distorted image of a word, designed to be unreadable by a computer, and asks the customer to prove that he is a human by reading it and typing in the correct work. But different CAPTCHA systems have been broken in the past by spammers and other Internet scammers.




Share:

More from Techworld

More relevant IT news

Comments



Send to a friend

Email this article to a friend or colleague:

PLEASE NOTE: Your name is used only to let the recipient know who sent the story, and in case of transmission error. Both your name and the recipient's name and address will not be used for any other purpose.

Techworld White Papers

Choose – and Choose Wisely – the Right MSP for Your SMB

End users need a technology partner that provides transparency, enables productivity, delivers...

Download Whitepaper

10 Effective Habits of Indispensable IT Departments

It’s no secret that responsibilities are growing while budgets continue to shrink. Download this...

Download Whitepaper

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Information Archiving

Enterprise information archiving is contributing to organisational needs for e-discovery and...

Download Whitepaper

Advancing the state of virtualised backups

Dell Software’s vRanger is a veteran of the virtualisation specific backup market. It was the...

Download Whitepaper

Techworld UK - Technology - Business

Innovation, productivity, agility and profit

Watch this on demand webinar which explores IT innovation, managed print services and business agility.

Techworld Mobile Site

Access Techworld's content on the move

Get the latest news, product reviews and downloads on your mobile device with Techworld's mobile site.

Find out more...

From Wow to How : Making mobile and cloud work for you

On demand Biztech Briefing - Learn how to effectively deliver mobile work styles and cloud services together.

Watch now...

Site Map

* *