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Teen hacker faces prison for 1.3m-strong botnet

FBI puts losses caused by botnet at $20m

An 18-year-old man has been arrested for allegedly masterminding a botnetting operation.

New-Zealand-based accused, Owen Thorn Walker, is said to have been the leader of a group of programmers that set up a botnet that infected 1.3 million computers with the purpose of stealing credit cards and manipulating stock trades.

The FBI has put the losses caused by the Netherlands-sited botnet at $20m, most of it siphoned from the bank accounts of victims across the globe. Walker, who operated under the handle 'AKILL', now faces up to 10 years in jail if found guilty under New Zealand law.

Conventional wisdom has it that the era of hackers barely old enough to shave has passed into history and that cybercrime is now controlled by organised crime, motivated solely by money. This fails to notice that young, talented hackers can be just as likely to be part of such crime groups as their older peers.

Authorities around the world seem to be turning their legal attention to the botnet problem at last, which has grown into the largest internet security issue, beating even spam for malevolence.

"We worked closely with US and Dutch authorities on this investigation. This arrest is significant not just to New Zealand but the international community as well," said Detective Inspector Peter Devoy of the New Zealand police, underlining the degree of cooperation now being employed to fight to bring individuals to book.

"Very few people who carry out this sort of offending are ever prosecuted, so the resolution of this case has huge international implications," he added.

In addition to Walker, 13 other arrest warrants have been issued relating to the case in unspecified parts of the world.

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