An appalling discharge without conviction

Some may disagree with me, but I am appalled that Owen Thor Walker has been discharged without conviction for his involvement in bot nets.

There is an argument that giving the young offender a dressing down and “harnessing his powers for good” is the sensible thing to do. I agree, this is often the case.

But in this case I think his offending was very different to say the person who hacks a few institutions just for the challenge of it. He spent two years helping run bot nets, and made $40,000 doing it. And he wasn’t conned into doing this by someone else. He in recruited others to help him. This was not just a kid having some fun. It was serious criminal activity. Bot Nets are arguably the biggest problem on the Internet – they are used for phishing, spamming, DOS attacks etc.

I also am skeptical of the line that he has such superior skills to everyone else, he must be hired by the “good guys” or they will be at a disadvantage. The NZ technical community alone probably has hundreds (or more) of people who would be capable of setting up and running a sophisticated bot net operation. They just choose not to take part in criminal activities. I don’t think you reward someone for having no ethics.

Now I am not arguing Walker should have been sent to jail. That would be silly. And I am mindful he is autistic. But a discharge without conviction should (in my books) be used for extremely minor criminal cases like shoplifting or say $200 of taxi chit fraud. This was not a minor case of offending. It was two years of dedicated offending where he made lots of money, he recruited others to help, and he caused damage to over one million people.

We now have clean slate legislation. If he stayed clean for seven years his conviction would be wiped effectively.

My concern is not Walker per se, but the signal it sends out to the cyber-criminals that running Bot Nets and phishing etc are not real crimes, and if you do them you’ll just get told off. That is what appals me.

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