No, contrary to a sudden flurry of loosely-sourced articles in the hacker and Muslim press, Hamza Bendelladj aka Bx1, spammer and co-creator of the SpyEye virus, has not been sentenced to death by a US jury.
In fact, he hasn’t been sentenced at all. And he’ll never stand in front of a jury, having already pled guilty.
Here’s an example of the hysterical outcry, from an article calling him a “Muslim HERO!”
News of the execution of the Algerian hacker, Hamza Bendeladj [sic], by the US authorities sparked a large controversy on social media, as some activists launched a campaign of support and solidarity “We are all Hamza”, in which they called on the authorities to mediate for saving the life of “Algeria’s genius”, who stunned the world through hacking Israeli websites and banks, and offers their funds to the Palestinian people.
Funds which he and his SpyEye trojan took from victims all over the world.
The US ambassador to Algeria has taken to Twitter to beat back the death sentence allegations, stating that none of the crimes with which he’s been charged are punishable by death, and that his sentencing will be later this year.
In case your French is rusty, that says “1/2 Bendelladj Hamza pleaded guilty June 26 for having developed, distributed, and monitored a malicious SpyEye banking Trojan.”
And this one says “2/2 The verdict will take place in a few months. Computer crimes are not capital crimes and are not punished by the death penalty” but is more notable for the fight she got into with a skeptical commenter who vowed to shave his moustache if she was right and he was wrong. No update on the moustache situation, but it does add a glorious touch of farce to what was already at least broad comedy.
There’s already a Facebook group, All Against the Death Sentence of Hamza, whose URL misspells his name, but at 112 members it’s hardly a social media juggernaut.
The Algerian was arrested in Thailand and extradited to the US in 2013, charged with one count of conspiring to commit wire and bank fraud, 10 counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud, and 11 counts of computer fraud. You can see the original indictment here (PDF). On June 26 of this year he pled guilty to so the future is not looking rosy for him, but none of those are capital crimes, so the death penalty is simply off the table, unless he killed someone recently and we didn’t hear about it.
The 2013 FBI report of his arrest in Thailand says “If convicted, Bendelladj faces a maximum sentence of up to 30 years in prison for conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud; up to 20 years for each wire fraud count; up to five years for conspiracy to commit computer fraud; up to five or 10 years for each count of computer fraud; and fines of up to $14 million.”
Instead, along with his partner he made a plea bargain in which he took responsibility for creating and distributing SpyEye, a virus designed to capture online banking information from unsuspecting individuals’ infected computers. The operation was professional and efficient, if highly illegal, and included a strong marketing push on dark markets, dedicated customer service, and optional software customization. According to the DA of the Northern District of Georgia, where he faces these charges, “Until dismantled, SpyEye was the preeminent malware banking Trojan from 2010-2012.”
It should be no surprise that an admitted spammer with millions at his fingertips should be portrayed as a martyr in the press leading up to his sentencing: heck, Donald Trump is being portrayed as a legitimate political candidate. But no, he will not actually be martyred, by lethal injection, electrocution, or any of the other options the United States has at its disposal. He will simply sit in prison and wait for his fate to be decided.