Teenager faces five years for using botnet to steal millions

A teenager In New Zealand could face five years in prison after being convicted today of illegal...

A teenager In New Zealand could face five years in prison after being convicted today of illegal computer hacking.

After admitting membership of an international cyber crime ring, Owen Thor Walker pleaded guilty yesterday to six charges related to using computers for illegal purposes. Police allege the 18-year-old led the group of hackers who hijacked computers around the world.

Walker, also known by his online handle 'Akill', created a botnet that aggregated 1.3 million computers. The programmer wrote software that evaded normal computer anti-spyware systems, and then sold his skills to criminals around the world.

Walker and his gang's particular botnet is believed to have been responsible for the loss of millions of dollars from bank accounts. Along with eight others, he was caught in a police swoop that targeted 22 suspects, but 13 slipped the net.

Eight of Walker's accomplices have been indicted, pleaded guilty or have been convicted since the investigation began last June.

Walker was arrested last December as part of Operation Bot Roast II, a worldwide crackdown led by the FBI. He pleaded guilty at Thames District Court to two charges of accessing a computer for dishonest purpose, two charges of accessing computer systems without authorisation, one of damaging or interfering with computer systems and one of possessing software for committing crime.

Though he could technically be sentenced to five years in prison, there are mitigating factors for a lighter sentence. He was underage when the offences were committed, cooperated with police in the North Island city of Hamilton and helped police to reveal details of the crime. Judge Arthur Tompkins said he would consider home detention, community detention, community work and a fine for Walker. Sentencing will take place on May 28th.

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