New Zealand Teen Hacker Escapes Charges

    July 16, 2008

A New Zealand teenager who confessed to a major role in a worldwide cyber-crime ring, which led to millions of dollars of losses, was discharged from court yesterday without any conviction.

Owen Thor Walker

Owen Thor Walker, 18, who used the alias "Akill" online, was ordered by the court to pay $10,000 in damages and turn over his computer related assets.

New Zealand police are impressed with the skills of Walker and are considering offering him a position fighting cybercrime.

Police found out last November after a yearlong investigation involving the FBI and authorities in the Netherlands that the "mastermind" they were trying to find was Walker, who was using a computer in his bedroom in the rural town of Whitianga.

Walker used a botnet to control more than a million computers around the globe. Software he created and sold to cyber criminals allowed them to steal users names and passwords along with credit card information. He did not take money from people’s accounts, but received $31,000 for the software he designed and sold to hackers.

The FBI estimated the financial losses from the hacking activities and damage to computer systems at over $20 million.

The crime received attention after one attack caused computers to crash at the University of Pennsylvania in 2006.

In court, Walker, who has Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism, smiled as he listened to the prosecution talk about how international investigators considered his skills to be "amongst the most advanced " they had come across.

Judge Judith Potter called Walker a person with a bright future but who was unable to set boundaries for himself in relation to his "undoubted expertise" in computers.