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Teenage computer criminal arrested in New Zealand.

Sophos : 29 February, 2008  (Technical Article)
Arrested teenager could face long term of custody if found guilty of leading international cyber-criminal ring responsible for infecting millions of computers.
IT security and control firm Sophos is reminding organisations of the threat posed by zombie networks after a teenager in New Zealand was accused of being at the centre of an international cybercrime network.

18-year-old computer programmer Owen Thorn Walker, has been charged with two counts of accessing a computer for dishonest purposes, damaging a computer system, possessing software for committing crimes, and two counts of accessing a computer system without permission. If found guilty, Walker could face up to ten years in jail.

When arrested in November 2007, it was alleged that Walker - known by his online handle 'AKILL' - was the boss of a gang that had infected 1.3 million computers around the world, stealing banking and credit card information.

'Hackers can use zombie networks of innocent people's computers to send spam, manipulate stock prices, steal identities and attack company websites. These botnets are one of the biggest security problems faced by the internet today, and are a powerful weapon in the hands of an experienced cybercriminal,' said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. 'Some people may feel that this case is a long way away because it's happening in New Zealand, but Sophos tracks thousands of compromised computers around the world every hour, doing the bidding of remote hackers often thousands of miles away. It is essential that all computer users put in place strong defences to properly protect their PCs.'

Walker appeared in Thames Magistrate's Court in northern New Zealand, and was released on bail.

In January Sophos published its annual Security Threat Report, which discussed how financially-motivated cybercriminals use zombie botnets in their pursuit of money.

Sophos recommends that companies protect their desktops, gateways and servers with automatically updated protection against viruses, spyware, hackers, and spam.

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