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Kiwi telecom inks contract with convicted hacker

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New Zealand's No. 2 telecommunications company has hired a 16-year-old botnet herder less than 12 months after he pleaded guilty to six computer hacking and fraud charges following an international investigation.

Owen Thor Walker could have received up to five years for his offenses. Now, he has received a contract to provide seminars to TelstraClear, the New Zealand subsidiary to Australia's Telstra. A spokesman for the company said Walker's contract was linked to an online security product known as DMZGlobal.

Authorities accused Walker of operating a botnet composed of more than 1.3 million infected computers. He also crippled a server at the University of Pennsylvania when, in February of 2006, he illegally used it to install updated malware on the fleet of zombie machines under his control, authorities have alleged. He operated under the pseudonym Akill and was ultimately apprehended in an FBI sting dubbed Operation Bot Roast.

TelstraClear's decision to hire a newly convicted hacker seems to be part of a growing trend. Earlier this month, serial entrepreneur Jason Calacanis admitted he gave John Kenneth Schiefer unfettered "root" access to his startup's computer network, despite Schiefer's admission 16 months ago that he used a massive botnet to steal bank passwords and other sensitive information.

Other convicts to receive lucrative jobs include Gabriel Bogdan Ionescu, a 22-year-old Romanian hacker who even before he had finished serving his sentence has received an offer for part-time work from a company called Way-Log.

A TelstraClear spokesman was careful to tell a New Zealand publication that Walker had no access to the company's computer network. Still, hiring a freshly convicted hacker to provide security consulting makes about as much sense as hiring a cat burglar to lock down an art museum. Keep hiring cybercriminals and soon every script kiddie will want to be indicted. ®

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