A New Zealand teenager was arrested and then freed of charges today for allegedly being the Leader of a Bot/Spybot network. The New Zealand E-crime unit arrested the teenager on suspicion of stealing over 9.7 Million Pounds from bank accounts around the world and breaking into an estimated 1.3 Million computers. The full quote from the Guardian..
The 18-year-old, from Hamilton, North Island, was taken into custody and several computers were seized, said the head of the country’s police e-crime unit, Martin Kleintjes. The teenager cannot be named for legal reasons, but uses the online identity "Akill". He was later released without charge, but police said they expected to interview him again.
He is suspected of being the ringleader of an international network of hackers who allegedly assumed control of thousands of computers and amassed them into centrally controlled clusters known as botnets. The hackers could then use the computers to steal credit card information, manipulate stock trades and even crash industry computers, authorities alleged. The teenager was the "head of an international spybot ring that has infiltrated computers around the world with their malicious software", Kleintjes told New Zealand national radio. Eight people have been charged, pleaded guilty or have been convicted since the investigation started in June. Thirteen arrest warrants have also been served in the US and overseas in the investigation. The FBI estimates that more than 1m computers have been infected, and puts the combined economic losses at more than $20m (£9.7m).
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 teenager 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." Authorities allege that the New Zealand suspect and Ryan Goldstein, a 21-year-old who was charged earlier this month in the US, were involved in crashing a University of Pennsylvania engineering school server in February last year. Officials said the server, which typically handles about 450 daily requests for internet downloads, instead got 70,000 requests from the account of an unsuspecting Penn student over four days.
The FBI followed an electronic trail from that student’s account which allegedly led to Goldstein’s screen name, "Digerati", and the New Zealand hacker. Goldstein denies the charge and is due to go on trial in March.