The man, who is not from Washington, has been questioned by federal agents and put under surveillance. Law-enforcement sources would not give his name or location.
The man is expected to be in custody by 1:30 p.m. today, when the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle holds a news conference about developments in the Blaster worm investigation.
He is allegedly responsible for taking the original Blaster worm and changing it into a more sinister version known as the “B-variant,” two federal sources said.
The 18-year-old will be charged as an adult. A problem in computer-crime cases involving hackers younger than 18 is that the justice system generally treats juvenile offenders more leniently.
Agents are still pursuing the creator of the original Blaster worm.
“This is a major development in the case,” a high-level federal source said yesterday. “This variant was a toxic version that caused a lot of trouble here and around the world.”
The U.S. attorney in Seattle is heading the case because the worm, unleashed two weeks ago, targeted Redmond-based Microsoft and its Windows XP and Windows 2000 operating systems.
Investigators do not believe the 18-year-old created the original Blaster worm, which bore into computers through a vulnerability in the Windows operating system. Rather, he is suspected of adding code to the worm, refining it so that it would do more damage.
The B-variant of Blaster appeared two days after the original worm began snaking its way through the Internet, according to news reports. It took advantage of the same vulnerability in the Windows operating systems.
One thing it did differently was to replace an internal message that originally said “LOVE YOU SAN” with taunts and jibes at Microsoft founder and chairman Bill Gates, according to reports.
One message of the original Blaster said: “billy gates why do you make this possible? Stop making money and fix your software!!”
Both Blasters caused computers to reboot frequently or disrupted a computer user’s ability to browse the Internet.
More than 400,000 computers worldwide were infected. Experts said that whoever created the worm started working on it long before Microsoft published news of its system flaw July 16.
The worm infected computers, disrupted business, slowed the Internet and heaped stress on people struggling to fix their machines.
U.S. Attorney John McKay, FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Scott Crabtree and Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Wallace Shields will hold the news conference. Microsoft officials are expected to attend.
Microsoft officials reached last night said they knew of developments in the case but declined further comment.
Experts had warned that attacks might occur because Microsoft had publicized the vulnerabilities in Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows Server 2003 and NT 4.0.
The company issued alerts for corporate and individual users, telling them to install a patch to prevent blaster’s harmful effects.
In the first wave, on Aug. 13, about 10 percent of Seattle city government’s computers were hit, mainly because workers had not installed a patch that could have avoided the problem.
Federal investigators have found it difficult to track the authors of computer viruses and worms.
Source: Seattle Times