Police swoop in on New Zealand botmaster

The suspect, seized as part of the FBI's Operation Bot Roast, is alleged to have had illegal control over 1 million computers.

New Zealand Police this week cracked down on an alleged botnet ringleader in New Zealand, who the FBI claims had illegal control over 1 million computers.

The sweep is part of the FBI's second phase of "Operation Bot Roast"--the same operation which resulted in four felony charges against 26-year-old Los Angeles security consultant John Schiefer.

The New Zealand suspect, who goes by the name of "Akill", came under fire after an information-sharing exercise between the New Zealand Police, the U.S. Secret Service and the FBI. He has been interviewed by New Zealand Police, and investigators have seized computers from his home.

FBI Director Robert Mueller said botnets are the "weapon of choice" for cybercriminals.

"They seek to conceal their criminal activities by using third-party computers as vehicles for their crimes. In Bot Roast II, we see the diverse and complex nature of crimes that are being committed through the use of botnets," Mueller said.

Since "Operation Bot Roast" was announced last June, eight individuals have been indicted, pled guilty or been sentenced for crimes related to botnet activity, according to the FBI. Law enforcement agencies have also served 13 search warrants in the U.S. and overseas.

FBI Cyber Division assistant director James Finch has warned users to protect their systems.

"Practicing strong computer-security habits, such as updating antivirus software, installing a firewall, using strong passwords, and employing good e-mail and Web-security practices, are as basic as putting locks on your doors and windows," Finch said.

"Without employing these safeguards, botnets, along with criminal and possibly terrorist activities, will continue to flourish," Finch added.

Most individuals identified by the FBI in "Operation Bot Roast II" are male, U.S. citizens, under 30 years old.

Liam Tung of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.

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