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10 May 2006

Longest ever jail sentence for malware writer is not tough enough, reveals Sophos poll

Jeanson James Ancheta
Jeanson James Ancheta has been sentenced to a jail term of almost five years.

The majority of computer users are disappointed by the jail sentence meted out by the US courts to Jeanson James Ancheta, the 21-year old who was yesterday imprisoned for seizing control of 400,000 PCs to install revenue-generating adware. Ancheta also sold access to the zombie network to others who wished to launch denial of service attacks and spam campaigns.

A web poll of 275 PC users, conducted by Sophos, found that 60% of respondents think Ancheta's 57 month jail sentence - which is the toughest ever handed out to a malware writer - is too soft. A mere 24% believe the punishment fits the crime, while just 16% feel it is too harsh.

"These results prove that there is little love lost between PC users and cybercriminals - there is a distinct lack of sympathy from legitimate IT users for those people who try to make their lives harder," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "Ancheta's crimes caused distress and financial loss to thousands of individuals and companies and, as a result, the US justice system came down on him tougher than ever seen before. But it seems this is still not enough for the majority of people."

Participants of the poll were also asked to suggest alternative punishments for virus writers. A common suggestion was that those convicted of cybercrimes should be banned for life from using PCs and other technology.

"PC users want cybercriminals neutralised. Many feel that the only way to achieve this in the long-term is to deprive hackers and virus writers of the thing they love and know the best - technology," continued Cluley.

Sophos continues to recommend companies protect their desktops and servers with automatically updated protection against viruses, spyware, and spam.

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