Kournikova virus maker appeals sentence

The 21-year-old Dutchman who was sentenced in September to 150 hours of community service for creating and sending out the Anna Kournikova e-mail worm is appealing the verdict, his lawyer said today.

"My client does not agree with the conviction. We believe that he should be found not guilty," said Theo Jansen, the attorney representing Jan De Wit of Sneek, Netherlands. "You could say that my client was clueless. But he disputes that his intent was to do damage, and it has not been proven that great damage was done."

No date has been set for the appeal, but Jansen expects the court to wait until after the Dutch summer vacation, which ends in September. Last year's verdict was the first handed down against a virus writer in the Netherlands and one of the few such verdicts in the world.

De Wit was charged with spreading data via a computer network with the intent to cause damage, a crime punishable by four years in prison and a maximum fine of about $40,000. The prosecutor asked the court to order De Wit to serve 240 hours of community service (see story).

De Wit used a tool kit to create a worm that, under the guise of an e-mail image of Russian tennis star Anna Kournikova, spread like wildfire for two days in February 2001. At the trial, De Wit stated he didn't know what he was doing or what the consequences of posting the virus in an Internet newsgroup would be.

The judges didn't believe him, noting that De Wit had a collection of about 7,200 computer viruses and worked in a computer store. Damage done by the Kournikova worm was limited but could have been significant. The exponential spreading could have paralyzed the Internet, and De Wit knew that, the court said.

News of the appeal comes days after the writer of the Melissa virus, David Smith, was sentenced to 20 months in prison in the U.S. (see story). The Melissa virus spread in 1999 and is said to have caused more than $80 million in damage.

Maarten Reijnders, a reporter for WebWereld Netherlands, contributed to this story.

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