Kournikova worm maker sentenced to community service

AMSTERDAM -- The maker of the Anna Kournikova e-mail worm that spread in February was sentenced today to 150 hours of community service or, if he chooses not to do the community service, to 75 days in jail.

A CD-ROM containing thousands of viruses that was confiscated from him won't be returned, the court in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, ruled in the first-ever verdict handed down against a virus maker in the Netherlands and one of the few such verdicts in the world.

Two weeks ago, the prosecutor asked the court to sentence Jan de Wit, 21, of Sneek, Netherlands, to 240 hours of community service and to keep a confiscated computer as well as the disk.

De Wit created the nondestructive worm that spread like wildfire for two days in early February with a worm-making tool kit (see story). During the trial, he stated that he didn't know what he was doing nor did he realize the consequences of posting the virus in an Internet newsgroup, but the judges didn't believe him.

"[De Wit] was not a layman in the field of computer viruses. He works in a computer store and collected viruses, about 7,200, according to himself. The defendant must have been very aware of the consequences of his acts," the verdict read. "The virus he spread was a hindrance, causing worry and annoyance among Internet users worldwide."

The virus also invaded the privacy of Internet users by accessing address books on infected machines and using those to propagate itself, the court said.

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, according to the court.

The FBI sent the court a report saying it had identified 55 victims that had suffered damage to their computers that totaled nearly $167,000. Companies also shut down their e-mail systems as a precaution during the propagation, antivirus software vendors said, but that information wasn't mentioned in court.

The court said the sentence could have been harsher if the victims had filed claims with the court. In arriving at its verdict, the court took into consideration that the FBI report was scant on details and that de Wit is a first offender who has expressed remorse and surrendered himself to police (see story).

De Wit may appeal. His lawyer wasn't immediately available for comment.

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