Teenage hacker discharged; may be offered police job

Teenage hacker discharged; may be offered police job

A teenage hacker from New Zealand, accused of designing software to steal millions of dollars from bank accounts, has been discharged without conviction and may be offered a job fighting cybercrime by police.

Owen Thor Walker, 18, known online as Akill, was part of a gang that created a botnet of over one million computers, using it to steal at least $20.4 million.

He was paid around $31,000 to design software used by the gang to install malicious software on computers and steal usernames, passwords and credit card details.

Walker was arrested in November after an investigation by New Zealand, Dutch and US authorities.

He admitted to being part of an international crime network, called the A-Team, but was discharged without conviction in the High Court at Hamilton. He was ordered to pay $10,000 in damages.

New Zealand police were so impressed with the sophistication of his programming, they are now interested in using his knowledge to fight cybercrime.

Meanwhile, six women in California have been arrested over an alleged gift card fraud which netted them over $1 million.

According to local press reports, the women used the Internet to steal credit card information from over 400 people around the world before re-encoding it onto gift cards.

They then went on shopping sprees between San Francisco and Sacramento, spending over $1 million on the cards in shops such as Macy's and Wal-Mart.

The suspects, believed to be part of a bigger gang, face over 180 charges of identity theft and fraud and are currently in police custody.

Reports suggest the gang choose to use pre-paid gift cards because they are considered the same as cash by shops and therefore do not arouse the same suspicion as credit cards if declined.

Concern over the security of pre-paid gift cards recently led to the launch of an accreditation scheme from the The Prepaid International Forum. The group hopes the scheme will combat concerns over alleged money laundering, as well as aggressive marketing and poor customer service standards.

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