Melissa worm author sentenced to 20 months

May 01, 2002 Sophos Press Release

Sophos welcomes decision but calls for swifter sentencing

David L. Smith

Sophos, the leading developer of corporate anti-virus protection, has welcomed the sentencing by a US court of David L. Smith - the self-confessed author of the infamous Melissa worm - to 20 months imprisonment and a fine of $5,000. The Melissa worm was the first ever successful mass-mailing worm and has provided the blueprint for many other mass mailers including The Love Bug and Anna Kournikova. The New Jersey court adjudged Smith's worm to have caused more than £55 million pounds worth of damage.

However, with Smith first confessing to writing and distributing the worm in 1999, Sophos is calling for swifter action by the courts to increase the deterrent to future virus writers.

"The Melissa worm was a serious security breach, inconveniencing millions of computer users the world over - it's important that Smith has been dealt with in an appropriate manner by the US courts," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant, Sophos Anti-Virus. "It's just a shame that the authorities couldn't have worked quicker to bring him to book. Smith has already been a dark inspiration to a whole generation of script kiddies - these copycat virus writers would have undoubtedly thought twice before distributing their malicious code if their hero was serving time."

Melissa, named after a Florida stripper admired by David L Smith, congested the email systems of thousands of companies worldwide causing many to panic and shut down their internet connection to the outside world.