Page last updated at 05:19 GMT, Wednesday, 25 March 2009

New Zealand company hires hacker

Keyboard and US money -  file photo
Walker's botnet skimmed millions from private bank accounts

A top New Zealand telecommunications company has hired a teenager who admitted to taking part in an international cyber-crime network.

TelstraClear said former hacker Owen Thor Walker was advising corporate customers on internet crime.

Mr Walker had been at the centre of a criminal network that infiltrated more than a million computers globally.

He was investigated by the authorities in the US, Europe and New Zealand while he was just 16 and still at school.

As well as taking part in an advertising campaign, Mr Walker had delivered a series of seminars to help senior executives and customers understand the security threats to their networks, said TelstraClear spokesman Chris Mirams.

"It was really just ... to let them know the type of cyber threats that are out there, developing," said Mr Mirams, according to the Associated Press news agency.

Bank details

Last year Mr Walker pleaded guilty to six cyber crime charges and being a key member of the gang, which is said to have stolen at least $20.4m (£13.9m) from private bank accounts.

He had not taken money from people's accounts, but he was paid nearly $31,000 (£21,100) for software he designed that gave the cyber-ring access usernames, passwords and credit card details.

He was ordered to pay $10,000 damages but was discharged without a conviction after the court heard he suffered from a form of autism.

New Zealand police said Mr Walker had begun committing the crimes at school, and had designed an encrypted virus that was undetectable by anti-virus software.

He had been detained in the North Island city of Hamilton in 2007 as part of an investigation with US and Dutch police into global networks of hijacked PCs, known as botnets.

A botnet can be controlled over the internet by a single computer.

It installs malicious software on PCs to collect information such as login names, bank account details and credit card numbers.

Investigators called Mr Walker's program one of the "most advanced" they had seen.

TelstraClear, New Zealand's second largest telecommunications company, is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Australian firm, Telstra.

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