( dpa ) - An 18-year-old New Zealand youth, Owen Thor Walker, accused of developing a unique virus that infected more than a million computers around the world, pleaded guilty to six charges when he appeared in court on Tuesday, news reports said.
Walker, from Whitianga, was arrested in November after an 18-month long investigation by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and authorities in Holland and New Zealand into an international ring that installed the virus on hijacked computer networks, inflicting global economic losses of up to 26 million New Zealand dollars (about 20.5 million US).
New Zealand police said at the time that Walker, who used the cyber pseudonym "AKILL," had designed a unique encrypted virus that could not be detected by anti-virus software which was installed on a "botnet" of hacked computers by a group of international programmers which he led.
Walker pleaded guilty in court at Thames to two charges of accessing a computer for dishonest purpose, damaging or interfering with computer systems, possessing software for committing crime, and two charges of accessing computer systems without authorisation. All the charges were laid under computer provisions of the Crimes Act.
New Zealand police said Walker was a co-conspirator in a botnet attack which crippled the entire computer system of a university in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in February 2006.
Co-operating with a US programmer, they controlled and infected about 50,000 computers causing the server to crash, which denied computer access to the university's 4,000 students, staff and faculty members.
Reports said Walker suffered the mental condition Asperger's syndrome - a form of autism - and the judge indicated that he was unlikely to send him to prison even though the charges carry sentences of up to five years.
Remanding Walker on bail to May 28, Judge Arthur Tompkins called for a pre-sentence report on options including home detention, community work and a fine.