New Zealand police arrest teenage leader of cyber crime network
Teenage kingpin had infiltrated 1.3 million computers and skimmed millions of dollars from victims' bank accounts. -AP
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) -- New Zealand police said Friday they had seized the teenage kingpin of an international cyber crime network that had infiltrated 1.3 million computers and skimmed millions of dollars from victims' bank accounts.
Working with the FBI and police in the Netherlands, New Zealand police raided the home of the 18-year-old in the North Island city of Hamilton and took him into custody along with several computers, said Martin Kleintjes, head of the police electronic crime center.
The case is part of an international crackdown this year on hackers who assume control of thousands of computers and amass them into centrally controlled clusters known as botnets. The hackers can then use the computers to steal credit card information, manipulate stock trades and even crash industry computers, authorities say.
Eight people have been indicted, pleaded guilty or have been convicted since the investigation started in June. Thirteen additional warrants have been served in the U.S. and overseas in the investigation.
The FBI estimates that more than one million computers have been infected and puts the combined economic losses at more than US$20 million (?14 million).
The New Zealander, known by his cyber identification as "AKILL," was "head of an international spybot ring that has infiltrated computers round the world with their malicious software," Kleintjes told National Radio.
Kleintjes told The Associated Press the teenager, whose name was not released for legal reasons, was cooperating with investigators in telling them how the crime system works.
He said the youth had not yet been formally charged.
"We have seized a number of computers and are talking with him," he said. "We are going for evidence and the case will develop from there. We're still in the early stages of the investigation."
Kleintjes said the teen likely will be charged with having unauthorized access to computers and possessing computer hacking tools - charges that carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Spybot and botnet are jargon for infiltrating a group of computers and infecting them with malicious software that allows them to be used to collect information - mainly credit card and bank account details.
Kleintjes said the New Zealander had written software that evaded normal computer spyware systems, then sold his skills to hackers.
"He is very bright and very skilled in what he's doing," Kleintjes said. "He hires his services out to others."
The teen, whom Kleintjes said was under age 18 and still at high school when the offending began, gets automatic name suppression at this stage of his case under New Zealand law.
|Privacy Statement Conditions of Access Advertise|