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09 Sep 2004

Teenage Sasser and Netsky worm suspect charged with computer sabotage, Sophos reports

Sven Jaschan
Sven Jaschan was arrested following a tip-off to Microsoft

The German teenager suspected of writing the Sasser and Netsky computer worms was charged yesterday by authorities in Germany.

Sven Jaschan, an 18-year-old computer enthusiast, was arrested in May at the house he shares with his parents in the village of Waffensen, North Germany. He has now been charged by prosectors of computer sabotage amounting to a total of $157,000. However, because many businesses did not report the damage done by the worms to their computer systems, prosecutors believe the real figure is in the millions.

"The Netsky and Sasser worms accounted for over 70% of all virus infections in the first half of 2004 - they were tremendously successful at spreading and a significant and costly nuisance for many companies and home computers worldwide," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "However, it seems the number of infection reports to the police are just the tip of the iceberg. These were, without doubt, two of the biggest computer virus outbreaks of all time."

Prosecutors said they have been contacted by 143 plaintiffs. In their indictment, prosecutors chose the cases of three German city governments and a public broadcaster whose systems were said to have been disrupted.

Prosecutors are said to be continuing to investigate several of Jaschan's school friends as suspected accomplices, although none of them have been charged to date.

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 Germany the charge of computer sabotage carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, however it is unclear presently whether Jaschan will be tried in an adult court as his viruses were released shortly before he turned 18.

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