By Martin Hodgson and agencies
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.
Subscribe to InfoSec News