Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Computer hacker with Asperger's goes free

Owen Thor Walker

From news in Australia and New Zealand:

A New Zealand teenager who confessed to a central role in a global cyber-crime ring which caused millions of dollars in losses walked free from court July 15 with police wanting to secure his skills.

Owen Thor Walker, 18, was discharged without conviction after earlier admitting six cyber crime charges. The prosecution and defence lawyers told the High Court in Hamilton, south of Auckland, that New Zealand police were interested in using Mr Walker's skills on the right side of the law.

Justice Judith Potter ordered Walker to pay $9526 ($7350 U.S. dollars) as his half share of the damage caused to the university computer and other costs of $5000 ($3859 U.S. dollars).

She also ordered Walker - who has Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism - to hand over his computer-related assets to police.

Walker was the alleged mastermind of a group of international hackers who used his programmes to access personal data, send viruses around the world and commit other crimes, causing losses of $20.59 million, 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 about $30,000 U.S. dollars for his part in the attacks.