Teen Mastermind Walks Free over Global Cyber Crime

WELLINGTON ~ A New Zealand teenager who confessed to a central role in a global cyber-crime ring that caused millions of dollars in losses walked free from court on Tuesday with police wanting to secure his skills.

Owen Thor Walker, 18, was discharged without conviction after earlier admitting six cyber crime charges.

Both the prosecution and defense lawyers told the High Court in Hamilton, south of Auckland, that New Zealand police were interested in using Walker’s skills on the right side of the law.

Judge Judith Potter ordered Walker to pay NZ$14,526 (US$10,980) as his share of damage caused to a US university computer and other costs, and made him hand over his computer-related assets to police.

Walker was the alleged mastermind of a group of international hackers who used his programs to access personal data, send viruses around the world and commit other crimes, causing losses of 20 million US dollars, police said.

International investigators considered Walker’s programming to be “amongst the most advanced” they had encountered, the prosecution summary said.

His software allowed access to user names and passwords, as well as credit card details, and was used by other criminals to commit crimes.

The investigation, started after an attack crashed the server at the University of Pennsylvania in 2006, involved New Zealand police in conjunction with the FBI, the United States Secret Service and Dutch authorities.

According to police, Walker – known on-line as “Akill” – received just under $40,000 for his part in the attacks.

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