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FBI, Scotland Yard arrest British man for writing e-mail computer worm


August 14, 2001

WASHINGTON — A British man has been arrested on charges that he created and released a virus-like program that was designed to let hackers take control of home computers, American and British law enforcement officials announced Tuesday.

FBI and Scotland Yard computer cops said a 24-year-old man was taken into custody July 23 and released to face trial later this year. Investigators said the man created the W32-Leave worm, which infected a few computers earlier this year.

In compliance with British law, the man's name has not been released. Officials said the announcement was delayed to avoid compromising the ongoing investigation, but did not elaborate further.

The man has been charged under Britain's Computer Misuse Act, and could be sentenced to up to five years in prison.

The W32-Leave worm helps a hacker break into a victim's computer and take complete control of it. The hacker can then steal or delete files or use the computer to commit other hacks. One variant of the worm came attached to an e-mail disguised as a Microsoft security notice, prompting a real warning from Microsoft.

Antivirus companies said the worm was barely noticed by users. One researcher expressed surprise that an investigation occurred in this case, when hackers who write more destructive and widespread programs go unpunished.

"We had to stop to look it up to find out how much of a nonevent it was," said David Perry of computer security firm Trend Micro.

The FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center issued a warning about the worm in June.

In February, Dutch police arrested a man accused of writing the "Anna Kournikova" computer virus. Two British teens were nabbed in March 2000 for the theft of thousands of credit card numbers.

On the Net: National Infrastructure Protection Center: www.nipc.gov

By D. Ian Hopper, ASSOCIATED PRESS. Copyright © 2001 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.


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