Virginia student pleads guilty to creating and selling keylogger on HackForums

A series of devastating operational mistakes brought down a student hacker who sold thousands of copies of his keylogger on HackForums.

A Virginia man pleaded guilty on Friday to charges of aiding and abetting computer intrusion, accused of writing a keylogger that sold to over 3,000 people and infected 16,000 victims.

Zachary Shames, 21, created the keylogger while in high school in Great Falls, Va., according to a Justice Department statement.

“He continued to modify and market the illegal product from his college dorm room,” the release notes.

Shames sold the keylogger on the infamous forum HackForums.Net, according to a researcher who spoke with Vice’s Motherboard. He used his real name in the process and accepted payment via PayPal, which can be traced rather easily.


HackForums, a seven-year-old information security web forum, is a center for both freewheeling education and cybercrime. For those who follow the forum, Shames’ age is no surprise. HackForums is home to teenage and young adults from around the world of wildly varying computer science skill levels. This is where Mirai was made public last year and where the malware’s many instances have surfaced over the last decade.

Shames’ LinkedIn page shows that he was an intern for Northrop Grumman, one of the biggest military contractors in the world.

He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and will be sentenced on June 16.

Patrick Howell O'Neill

Written by Patrick Howell O'Neill

Patrick Howell O’Neill is a cybersecurity reporter for CyberScoop based in San Francisco.

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