Owen Thor Walker has pleaded guilty to using computers for illegal
Experts at SophosLabs™, Sophos's global
network of virus, spyware and spam analysis center, have reminded
businesses and individuals of the importance of protecting their
computers in the light of a teenager pleading guilty to
18-year-old New Zealander, Owen Thor Walker, pleaded guilty
earlier this week to six charges between January 30, 2006 and
November 28, 2007 relating to using computers for illegal purposes.
Walker, who was arrested
in November 2007, has been accused of playing a key role in a gang
that infected 1.3 million computers around the world, installing
revenue-generating adware and stealing information worth US $20
Walker, who used online handles including "AKILL", "Snow Whyte"
and "Snow Walker", is said to have personally made nearly NZ
$40,000 (approximately US $31,000) from the malicious botnet. At
the time of his arrest he was dubbed the "botnet king" by media
around the world.
Judge Arthur Tompkins, who heard the court case in Thames, south
of Auckland, said that a prison sentence was unlikely for Walker
taking into account his youth and that he suffers from Asperger's
syndrome. Instead it is understood the judge will consider home
detention, community detention, community work and a fine for the
"Walker admitted in court that he knew what he was doing was
illegal, but did not consider it to be criminal," said Graham Cluley, senior
technology consultant for Sophos. "With more and more high profile
arrests of hackers a clear message must be sent that their
activities will not be tolerated. Clearly this man was just one cog
in a larger criminal gang, some of whom have still not been brought
to justice. Companies and home users need to put defenses in place
now to ensure that they are not the next victims of an internet
The 18-year-old has been bailed to appear in court for
sentencing on 28 May 2008.
In January Sophos published
its annual Security Threat Report, which discussed how
financially-motivated cybercriminals use zombie botnets in their
pursuit of money.
Zombie computers - are your PCs under someone else's
Zombie computers can be used by criminal hackers to launch
distributed denial-of-service attacks, spread spam messages or to
steal confidential information. SophosLabs estimates that more than
99 percent of all spam today originates from zombie computers.
As spammers become more aggressive, collaborating with virus
writers to create armies of zombie computers, legitimate
organizations with hijacked computers are being identified as a
source of spam. This not only harms the organization's reputation,
but can also cause the company's email to be blocked by others.
advises service subscribers when any computer on their network is
found to have sent spam to Sophos's extensive global network of
spam traps, and provides rapid notification to customers if their
Internet Protocol (IP) addresses are listed in public Domain Name
Server Block Lists (DNSBL). This information helps customers
locate, disinfect, and protect these systems from future