A hacker has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to hack into computer networks at major US retail and financial groups, and to steal data on tens of millions of credit cards and debit cards.
Albert Gonzalez, who hacked under names including "soupnazi" and "segvec", will be given a prison term of between 17 years and 25 years as part of the plea agreement, said a statement from the US Department of Justice.
Gonzalez was able to gain access to payment card networks operated by a number of companies, including convenience store chain 7-Eleven and Heartland Payment Systems. He also used several servers to test and store malware used to attack corporate networks and steal tens of millions of credit card and debit card numbers, affecting over 250 financial institutions.
"The case is one of the largest data breaches ever investigated and prosecuted in the United States," the statement said.
Gonzalez faces sentencing in at least three separate cases related to hacking activities, in Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. His sentence in the New Jersey case will run concurrently with those imposed in the Massachusetts and New York cases as part of the plea bargain.
"Commercial hackers like Gonzalez believe they are immune from detection and prosecution as they lurk in the shadows of the Internet," said Paul Fishman, US Attorney of the District of New Jersey, "but time and again they are caught, prosecuted and sentenced to lengthy federal prison terms. Other hackers should sit up and take notice."