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27 May 2004

Suspected Trojan horse author arrested in Taiwan, Sophos comments

Skyline in Taipei, Taiwan
The Trojan horse is said to have allowed Chinese hackers to steal information from Taiwanese businesses

A computer engineer has been arrested in Taiwan for allegedly writing and distributing a Trojan horse which allowed hackers to access sensitive information on the island's government computers.

30-year-old Wang Ping-an is accused of designing the Trojan horse (known as "Peep") which gave remote hackers access to infected computers, and allowed them to steal and destroy data on Taiwanese computers.

"He placed his program on popular hackers' websites and encouraged people to download it," said Lin Chieh-lung, an official from Taiwan's internet crime investigation taskforce. "He might have wanted only to show off his skills, but he should be aware what harm this could cause."

Computer crime authorities in Taiwan began to investigate some months ago after it was noticed that confidential government data had been stolen by hackers. The Trojan horse was discovered, and has been blamed for the theft of sensitive data from hundreds of schools, companies and government agencies in Taiwan. According to some media reports, the hackers may have been based in China which has a frosty relationship with self-ruled Taiwan.

"A 30-year-old computer engineer can't use the excuse that he didn't know what he was doing if he writes and distributes a malicious piece of code," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "If found guilty it's quite possible that he will receive a tough sentence - particularly as it is being suggested that the Trojan may have left open a backdoor for Chinese hackers to exploit."

Wang Ping-an has been charged with vandalising public and corporate property, and if conviced could face up to five years in jail.

In the past virus writers such as David L SmithSimon Vallor and Christopher Pile have been sentenced to jail for damage caused by their malicious code. In 2000, Taiwanese virus writer Chen Ing-Hau was detained by the authorities in connection with the widespread and highly damaging Chernobyl virus.

Sophos recommends that companies ensure their systems are protected with the latest anti-virus updates. Sophos's anti-virus solutions can be automatically updated, ensuring the latest virus protection is in place against the latest threats even when your office is unmanned.

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