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Mum defends suspected Kiwi botmaster

Misunderstood youth

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New Zealand reporters have unearthed the identity and background of a teenage hacker at the centre of an international cybercrime investigation.

Owen Walker, 18, who police identified only by his online moniker of AKILL, was arrested last week as part of a larger FBI-led operation aimed at cracking down on the trade in compromised PCs, codenamed Operation Bot Roast. The teenager from the small town of Whitianga in New Zealand's North Island was bullied at school and suffers from Asperger's syndrome, a mild form of autism associated with poor social skills but proficiency in an area of special interest.

Walker's mum, Shell Moxham-Whyte, told the New Zealand Herald that she had no idea about her son's alleged involvement in cybercrime prior to his arrest although she was well aware of his interest in computing since a young age. The teenager, who was released on police bail after he was quizzed by police last week, is staying with relatives. Moxham-Whyte said the family has been under immense pressure since her son was named in connection with the international cybercrime inquiry on Saturday.

Police plan to question Walker on completion of a forensic examination of his computers, which were seized from the family home at the same time he was taken in for questioning last Wednesday. The teenager has since lost his job as a programmer at Trio Software Development. Former employers and even police forensic investigators are united in describing the youngster as a "brilliant computer programmer", the New Zealand Herald reports. Glenn Campbell, a director at Walker's former employer Trio, suggested Walker did not actively set out to get involved in cybercrime.

Moxham-Whyte described her son as a bright boy who has loved computers since he was young. Friends said Walker (AKA Snow Whyte) was something of a loner at school who was picked on by bullies. He completed his education using a correspondence course after leaving school early at 14 (year nine). ®

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