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Card hacker Albert Gonzalez gets 20 years, but cyber crime rising

Albert Gonzalez cost companies and insurers almost $200 million, federal prosecutors say, earning him the longest sentence ever leveled for cyber crime.

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The 20-year sentence for Albert Gonzalez, the mastermind behind one of the largest cyber thefts in US history, illustrates a disturbing trend: a 22 percent increase in cyber crime complaints over the last year.

Mr. Gonzalez was sentenced in Boston on Thursday for breaking into the computer systems of major retailers in Massachusetts. A separate sentencing Friday will address similar hacking cases in New Jersey and New York involving companies such as 7-Eleven Inc., New England grocery store chain Hannaford, and payment card processor Heartland Payment Systems.

Gonzalez pleaded guilty to all charges. His escapades cost companies, banks, and insurers almost $200 million, federal prosecutors say. His sentence is the harshest ever leveled for computer crime in an American court, said Mark Rasch, former head of the computer crimes unit at the US Department of Justice.

Authorities say Gonzalez's activities suggest a growing sophistication among homegrown hackers who use software to harvest credit-card data and other personal information through vulnerable Internet signals and hacked ATMs. Data are often sold to overseas operators or used to benefit the hackers themselves.

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