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NZ teen botnet mastermind cops a plea

AKILL likely to avoid jail

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A New Zealand teenager charged with running a huge cybercrime network has pleaded guilty to computer hacking and fraud offences.

Owen Thor Walker, 18, admitted six charges including accessing a computer for dishonest purposes, possession of software for committing crime, and accessing computer systems without authorisation, AP reports.

The teenager suffers from Asperger's Syndrome, a mild form of autism that leaves sufferers lacking in social skills but occasionally with exceptional abilities in a specific area.

Walker has confessed to offences that might be punishable by up to five years behind bars. But his guilty plea, alongside his health problems, led Judge Arthur Tompkin to indicate that the teenager is unlikely to be sent to prison when he faces a sentencing hearing, scheduled for 28 May.

The teenager (previously known only as AKILL, his online moniker) was arrested in November as part of an FBI-led investigation into the trade in compromised PCs, codenamed Operation Bot Roast. Authorities reckon Walker was the technical mastermind and ringleader behind a gang that gained access to as many as one million compromised PCs in an ID theft scam that skimmed millions from online bank accounts.

Walker, who began committing his crimes while still at school, allegedly designed a Trojan that lifted account login credentials from compromised PCs.

Members of the gang also made money by running spam and denial of service attacks, as well as by loading compromised PCs with adware. These combined cybercrime activities are reckoned to have netted the gang $20.4m. ®

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