Inconsistent treatment for hackers?

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Owen Thor Walker
It is reported that a teenage hacker who made headlines for accessing computers around the world without permission for dishonest purposes, has been given a job by a New Zealand telecoms company.

Nineteen year old Owen Thor Walker, from New Zealand, was exposed as “AKILL”, a hacker who had written malware to steal bank account information and was said to have played a role in controlling a botnet of over a million computers worldwide. Walker escaped jail, but was ordered to pay $11,000 in fines.

Now it has been revealed that TelstraClear, New Zealand’s second-largest telecommunications firm, hired Walker to conduct security seminars and assist them with advertising.

You have to raise an eyebrow at this point, and ask if there is possibly an inconsistency at play in the way in which different countries are punishing their cybercriminals.

After all, British hacker Gary McKinnon is facing extradition after breaking into NASA and Pentagon computers shortly after 9/11 in his hunt for evidence of UFOs.

My guess is that McKinnon would be extremely happy to receive a fine, and get a job advising people about security – but no-one seems to be offering him that yet.

And regardless of whether McKinnon and Walker are being treated differently by the authorities, is anyone else concerned that some hackers might be using their notoriety a fast track to employment in the IT industry? Is that a good message to be sent out to young people?

I’d rather skilled youngsters got a good job based upon them putting their talents to a positive use, rather than as an apparent reward for past crimes.