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Suspended Sentence for Sasser Worm Writer

A German court has convicted Sven Jaschan, now age 19, on charges of data manipulation, interfering with public services, and computer sabotage for writing and releasing the Sasser worm in May 2004. Jaschan was given a suspended jail sentence of one year and nine months, plus 30 hours community service. Jaschan confessed in court earlier this week; because he was 17 when he committed the crimes, his trial was in a youth court. The sentence is far less than the maximum penalty of five years in jail for computer sabotage under German law.

The Sasser worm is often characterized as one of the most destructive to date, crippling millions of Microsoft Windows systems worldwide (including those at American Express, Goldman Sachs, British Airways, Australia’s Westpac Bank, and the European Commission) as well as jamming Internet traffic. Jaschan confessed to authoring the Sasser worm after creating several versions of the Netsky worm; together, computer security firm Sophos estimates Sasser and the Jaschan-authored Netsky-P accounted for up to 70 percent of all Internet virus activity during the first half of 2004.

Jaschan was described as introverted and withdrawn, and motivated to write the worms out of a need for recognition and acknowledgement. Jaschan reportedly began writing a Netsky variants to remove two earlier viruses, but became obsessed and worked with “mischievous delight” and an “enormous amount of criminal energy” over a long period to improve his worm, increasing its virulency and the amount of damage it would cause.

In passing its sentence, the court noted Jaschan had been in a “difficult social situation,” did not write the worms for material gain, and took into account Jaschan’s behavior since writing the worm.

Jaschan was arrested in August 2004 at his computer in his mother’s home in Waffensen, Germany, following tips to Microsoft Corporation from two informants seeking a reward. Microsoft paid $250,000 from its antivirus reward program for the information leading to Jaschan’s arrest.

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