Teenager guilty of million-dollar hacking campaign

Teenager guilty of million-dollar hacking campaign
Teenager guilty of million-dollar hacking campaign 

By Martin Hodgson and agencies
The Guardian,
April 1, 2008

A New Zealand teenager accused of leading an international ring of 
computer hackers which skimmed millions of dollars from bank accounts 
was today convicted of illegal computer hacking.

Owen Thor Walker, 18, pleaded guilty yesterday to six charges related to 
using computers for illegal purposes. Police allege that he led a group 
of hackers who took control of 1.3m computers around the world without 
their owners' knowledge.

Hackers routinely send out viruses, worms and malicious Trojan horse 
programs which allow them to take control of a victim's machine. Linked 
through the internet to form a "bot-net" network, the infiltrated 
computers are used to access personal bank accounts, steal credit card 
details or bombard users with spam.

Police alleged that Walker wrote software that evaded normal computer 
anti-spyware systems, and then sold his skills to criminals around the 

He was remanded on bail until May 28 for pre-sentence and reparation 
reports. Although several of the charges he was convicted of carry 
maximum terms of five years' imprisonment, Judge Arthur Tompkins said he 
was not considering prison.

Walker was arrested last December as part of Operation Bot Roast II, a 
worldwide crackdown led by the FBI. Eight others had previously been 
charged or convicted or had pleaded guilty.

The 18-year old, who was underage when the offences were committed, 
cooperated with police in the North Island city of Hamilton, revealing 
details of the crime.

Criminals also use bot-nets to send out billions of spam emails or swamp 
their victim with unwanted internet traffic. Shielding their identities 
behind infected machines, hackers often try to blackmail large web 
businesses, banks and other groups reliant on internet connections, by 
threatening to overwhelm them with millions of simultaneous attacks.

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