Conviction would harm hacker's future - judge

By Shenagh Gleeson, Newstalk ZB

A young Whitianga computer hacker walked free from court today after a judge said a conviction would have harmed his prospects.

Owen Thor Walker had pleaded guilty to charges relating to an international cyber-crime ring but was today discharged without conviction.

Justice Judith Potter said she did not think he was motivated by criminal intent and did what he did to show that he could.

She acknowledged his high level of skill and said a conviction could jeopardise his prospects, saying he has a potentially outstanding future ahead of him.

Walker, 18, appeared in the High Court in Hamilton today where he was ordered to pay $9526 in reparations for damage caused to the University of Pennsylvania and $5000 in costs.

The court heard he had received job offers from overseas companies and there was a possibility of him working for NZ Police.

Outside the courtroom Walker said he could not comment on job offers he had received.

He was allegedly the mastermind of a "botnet" coding group said to have infected a million computers and caused millions of dollars of damage.

According to police, Walker - known on-line as "Akill" - received just under $40,000 for his part in the attacks, which included a global adware scheme and the collapse of a computer server at the University of Pennsylvania.

The investigation was carried out by the New Zealand police in conjunction with the FBI, the United States Secret Service and Dutch authorities.

Walker pleaded guilty in Thames District Court in April to six charges between January 2006 and November 2007.

He was charged with accessing a computer for dishonest purpose, damaging or interfering with a computer system, possessing software for committing a crime and accessing a computer system without authorisation.

- with NZ HERALD STAFF, NZPA

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