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18 Jun 2004

Computer virus writer: "Netsky worm made me the hero of my class"

Sven Jaschan holds a computer keyboard in front of his face
Sven Jaschan was interviewed by Stern magazine

An interview with German teenager Sven Jaschan, arrested in connection with the Sasser and Netsky virus outbreaks, has revealed that all of his classmates at college knew that he was the author of the destructive worms.

The interview in Stern magazine paints a picture of Jaschan as a shy, quiet teenager studying computer science at the vocational school in Rotenburg. The magazine describes him as a young man with few friends, who didn't like drinking or partying.

However, Jaschan discussed the Netsky worms he was writing in early 2004 with his brothers, sisters and many of his classmates. "They even encouraged me to add something that would cause damage, but that was never what I wanted," claims Jaschan in the magazine. Soon, it is said, all of the students in Jaschan's class knew what he was doing, and Jaschan claims that some of them helped him distribute his malicious code.

As the various versions of the Netsky worm bombarded businesses worldwide with millions of nuisance emails, Jaschan finally felt he was earning the respect of his classmates. "It was just great how Netsky began to spread, and I was the hero of my class," he is said to have told the reporters from Stern.

At the end of April Sven Jaschan released the Sasser worm - which spread quickly via the internet without using email, striking many organisations including the UK coastguard service and Taiwan's national post office. Shortly afterwards Jaschan, apparently concerned about being caught by the authorities, says he emailed his friends saying that he would stop writing worms, and decided to wipe parts of his hard disk and encrypt viral source code on his computer.

But in early May, one of Jaschan's schoolfriends revealed the worm author's identity to Microsoft. The house Jaschan shared with his mother and stepfather was raided by the authorities who issued a search warrant. Computer crime officers searched the house, disconnecting PCs, taking photographs, and collecting CDs and floppy disks.

Realising that it was useless to deny his involvement with the worms, Jaschan told the officers the password to his encrypted files. During interrogation Jaschan also revealed the names of friends who are said to have helped him.

"It's a shame that someone with obvious computer skills should turn to writing computer viruses to increase their self esteem, rather than doing something postive like developing computer games or an innovative website," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "It's a sad story of how a young man with potential can make the wrong decisions, and end up disrupting millions of business and home computer users around the world."

The computer crime authorities in Germany are now collecting evidence of companies who have suffered financial damage from Sven Jaschan's worms.

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