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Monday, December 28, 2009

Talented Programmer Gets Two-Year Prison Sentence in TJX Case

Talented Programmer Gets Two-Year Prison Sentence in TJX Case - For supplying the credit card theft gang with special software:

"Stephen Watt, a 25-year-old software developer, was sentenced to two years in a federal prison for the role he played in the TJX hit, one of the largest credit card thefts in history. The programmer was also ordered to pay the company $171.5 million in restitution for the harm caused.

The man befriended notorious hacker Albert Gonzales, the mastermind behind the TJX attack, while he was still in highschool. The two met online and were driven by their passion for computers. The programmer went on to work as software engineer for financial institutions dealing in the securities market, including Morgan Stanley.

Watt assisted Gonzales and his friends by creating a hacking program called 'blabla,' which was used to sniff out credit card information passing through the TJX computer network. This program was found by authorities on two separate servers in Latvia and Ukraine, along with the stolen details of millions of credit cards.

The programmer was indicted in November 2008, and the prosecutors said that 'On diverse dates, Watt modified for Albert Gonzales and provided him a sniffer program used by the conspirators to monitor and capture data traveling across corporate networks.' According to Wired, when authorities caught up with him, Watt worked at Imagine Software, a company developing real-time trading programs, where he earned around $130,000 per year.

The hit on TJX, or 'Operation Get Rich or Die Tryin' as Gonzales himself called it, involved stealing credit card information from the networks of major retail stores like T.J. Maxx, OfficeMax, Boston Market, Barnes & Noble, Sports Authority or Forever 21. The authorities called it 'the largest identity theft in our nation’s history' and TJX, the parent company of the retail chains, estimated its losses at $200 million.

Albert Gonzales, who at one time operated as an informant for the Secret Service, is also awaiting sentencing and could face as much as 17 years in prison for his role in the operation."

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