Bail for alleged NZ teen spybot leader

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On Friday, a New Zealand teenager who is alleged to be at the centre of an international cyber crime network appeared on court charged with computer hacking-related crimes.

Programmer Owen Thor Walker, 18, was charged with two counts of accessing a computer for dishonest purpose, damaging or interfering with a computer system, possessing software for committing crime and two counts of accessing a computer system without authorisation. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years behind bars.

Walker did not enter a plea when he appeared briefly in the Thames Magistrate’s Court in northern New Zealand. He was released on bail.

Walker was arrested in November last year in Hamilton as part of an international investigation into a cyber crime network accused of infiltrating 1.3 million computers and taking millions of dollars from victims’ bank accounts.

NZ Police worked closely with its US and Dutch counterparts in the investigation, according to spokesman Detective Inspector Peter Devoy.

The case is part of an international crackdown on hackers who assumed control thousands of computers and use them to at their own will, known as botnets. Hackers then can take user information to steal credit card information, manipulate stock trade and even crash the computer or the server.

The teenager, known by his identity “AKILL”, was the head of an international spybot ring. Police also say he was responsible for placing 1.3 million computers with advertising spam in the Netherlands.

Friday’s hearings were the first time that charges were laid against him.

Eight have been indicted, pleaded guilty or have been convicted since the investigation began in June 2007. 13 additional warrants have been served in the US and overseas in the investigation.

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