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26 Jan 2005

Lawyers disagree over Blaster virus author sentencing, Sophos reports

Jeffrey Lee Parson
Jeffrey Lee Parson pictured shortly after his arrest in 2003.

Jeffrey Lee Parson, the man who created and released a version of the Blaster internet worm in August 2003, is due to be sentenced on Friday 28 January. According to media reports, lawyers for the defence and prosecution are disagreeing about the severity of the sentence he should receive.

Parson, who was 18 at the time of his arrest, wrote the W32/Blaster-B worm which was functionally equivalent to the much more widespread W32/Blaster-A worm, exploiting a Microsoft security vulnerability in order to spread across the net. It also included some offensive text directed towards Microsoft, Bill Gates, and the anti-virus industry.

As part a plea bargain agreed last year, Parson admitted he created the Blaster-B worm on his home computer in Hopkins, Minnesota. In court papers the prosecution has claimed that the worm infected approximately 48,000 computers and caused $1.2 million in damage.

According to the plea bargain, Parson could expect to receive a sentence of between 18 months and 3 years in prison. Prior to the plea bargain he had faced a possible maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Parson's lawyers are now said to be planning to ask US District Judge Marsha Pechman to change that sentence to six months in prison, six months at a community treatment centre and six months of detention, followed by three years of supervision. Prosecutors working for the US Attorney's office, however, are pushing for a maximum sentence of 37 months in prison.

"There is no doubt that Jeffrey Parson acted incredibly stupidly in writing and releasing this worm, but we need to keep this case in perspective," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "The Blaster-B worm didn't spread with anything like as much ferocity as the original. Blaster-A's author has yet to be tracked down, despite the significant bounty hanging over his or her head. It's important that Parson is punished for his wrongdoing, but not be made a scapegoat for the whole Blaster epidemic."

A report published last year in the Seattle Times paints a sad picture of the difficulties Parson and his parents have faced since his arrest.

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.