Two years jail for UK virus writer who infected 27,000 PCs, Sophos reacts

January 21, 2003 Sophos Press Release

Simon Vallor, the twenty-two year old web designer from North Wales who, in December 2002, pleaded guilty to writing and distributing three computer viruses, was today sentenced at Southwark Crown Court, London to a two year custodial sentence. His viruses - Gokar, Redesi and Admirer - were proven to have infected 27,000 PCs in 42 countries.

"Vallor's actions were comparable to those of a vandal gaining illegal entry to businesses across the world and then interfering with thousands of their PCs. His sentence reflects the severity of his crime and it's reassuring to computer users that the UK courts are treating cybercriminals on a par with more traditional offenders," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant, Sophos Anti-Virus. "Around 800 new viruses are cropping up each month - this level of activity requires a lot of virus writers. Perhaps Vallor's sentence will focus some minds and make virus writers think twice before unleashing their malicious code."

Not all countries are treating cybercriminals in the same manner as the UK courts. For example, in The Netherlands in 2001, the author of the Anna Kournikova worm received a punishment of just 150 hours community service, even though his worm spread much quicker and further than Vallor's three viruses combined. Sophos is therefore calling for an internationally agreed approach to charging and sentencing virus writers.

"Viruses know no geographical bounds so the law governing them should reflect this. At the moment, legal systems across the world seem to have widely different views on the seriousness of cybercrime," continued Cluley.

Experts at Sophos's virus lab found that Vallor's Redesi worm - which posed as a message from Microsoft warning of cyber-terrorists following the September 11th attacks - attempted to delete data from infected users' hard drives. His Gokar worm also had a malicious payload - it attempted to overwrite the main page on the websites of infected companies.

Sentencing Vallor, who went by the pseudonym of "Gobo", Judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC said "Virus writers are not so-called computer buffs or nerds, they happen to be criminals... Their viruses cause destruction, disruption, consternation and even economic loss on a grand scale."