A British businessman has been sentenced to community service
after deliberately sending a competitor a virus.
According to media reports Paul Brogden, 27, owner of Sure
Computers in Bideford, Devon fell out with his friend Colin Baglow,
who owned Complete Computers after a price war.
Exeter Crown Court heard how Brogden sent Baglow a computer
virus as an email attachment disguised as a price list in April
1999, but the staff at Complete Computers were suspicious and took
action to prevent it causing damage on the company's network.
On March 30th Brogden admitted causing an offence under the
Computer Misuse Act. Judge Jeremy Griggs of Exeter Crown Court
accepted that it was a "childish prank" rather than a serious
attempt at sabotage and sentenced Brogden to do 175 hours of
community service and confiscated his computer equipment.
"There was rivalry and jealousy because Mr Baglow's Complete
Computers was the more successful," said prosecutor Adam
Vaitalingham. "In April 1999 the defendant sent an email to
Complete Computers attaching details of his new website. The next
day Complete Computers replied with another email with the message:
'Nice website, shame about the prices.' Within 30 to 40 minutes of
receiving this, Brogden had sent the virus attached to an email
sent to Complete Computers. The email said: 'Our latest prices are
attached, please take a look.'"
Trevor Davis, speaking for Paul Brogden, claimed in court that
Baglow had been able to undercut his rival because he used pirated
software: "The problems arose because Mr Baglow was able to
unfairly compete on price with his rival through the theft of
copyright. My client's behaviour was a childish and impulsive
reaction to the email returned to him about prices and you can see
why he found it difficult to deal with in an adult fashion. He
himself had received the virus and had been able to cleanse it from
his system in about an hour. He knew that Mr Baglow would be able
to do the same, so this was not a question of sending a terminal
virus to a rival. It was going to be more of nuisance value."
Davis claimed that Brogden's business had collapsed as the
result of a police raid on his premises and he had been unemployed
Sentencing Brogden, Judge Jeremy Griggs said: "With your
experience you know just how easy it is for those with the
requisite expertise to cause viruses to be spread and the damage
they can spread. This appears to have been an isolated childish
prank. If I thought there were more serious implications I would
impose an immediate and substantial custodial sentence. This was
behaviour between rival companies which was unacceptable."
Judge Jeremy Griggs is no newcomer to dealing with
computer-related crime having presided over the Christopher Pile
(also known as "The Black Baron") SMEG virus case in 1995.