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11 Aug 2004

Teenage Blaster worm suspect expected to plead guilty, Sophos comments

 
Jeffrey Lee Parson is suspected of having written and distributed a variant of the Blaster worm

According to several media reports, Jeffrey Lee Parson, the Minnesota teenager who allegedly released a variant of the Blaster worm, Blaster-B, in August last year, is scheduled to appear this week before a federal judge in Seattle. Since his arrest on 29 August 2003, Parson has pleaded not guilty to one count of intentionally causing damage to non-public computers used by the Government of the United States, but authorities expect this plea to change.

A change-of-plea hearing was put on the court calendar for US District Judge Marsha Pechman. "Our expectation is that he will plead guilty, but until it actually happens we won't know for sure," said Emily Langlie, a spokeswoman for Seattle's US attorney's office, on Friday.

W32/Blaster-B is functionally equivalent to its predecessor but creates a file called teekids.exe - rather than msblast.exe - in the Windows system folder. The code also includes some offensive text which is directed towards Microsoft and the anti-virus industry. Reports claim that Parson, who is believed to use the online handle "teekid" or "t33kid", admitted at the time of his arrest, to modifying the original Blaster worm and launching it on the internet.

"These so-called script-kiddies, who modify existing viruses and release them into the wild, are a serious cause for concern," said Carole Theriault, security consultant at Sophos. "Their amended versions can cause as much havoc as the originals they tweak, yet some of them might expect to get away with a lighter sentence simply because they are not the initial author. It is important to remember that in many countries, writing viral code is not illegal, but allowing it to infect computers is punishable by law."

The original Blaster worm accounted for more than 15% of the virus reports to Sophos in 2003, but the variant linked to Parson was not as prevalent.

"We need to keep this case in perspective," continued Theriault. "The Blaster-B variant didn't spread with anything like as much ferocity as the original. Blaster-A's author has yet to be tracked down, despite the bounty on his or her head. It's important that Parson is punished for his wrongdoing, and not be made a scapegoat for the whole Blaster epidemic."

Reports state that since his arrest, Parson has been out of jail on $25,000 bail and has been under electronic home monitoring.

A report by Monica Soto Ouchi of the Seattle Times paints a sad picture of the difficulties Parson and his parents have faced since the arrest last year.

About Sophos

More than 100 million users in 150 countries rely on Sophos as the best protection against complex threats and data loss. Sophos is committed to providing complete security solutions that are simple to deploy, manage, and use and that deliver the industry's lowest total cost of ownership. Sophos offers award-winning encryption, endpoint security, web, email, mobile and network security solutions backed by SophosLabs - a global network of threat intelligence centers.

Sophos is headquartered in Boston, US and Oxford, UK. More information is available at www.sophos.com.