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Germany

Sasser Worm Maker Gets Light Sentence

The self-confessed teen mastermind behind the Sasser Internet worm that disabled millions of computers worldwide last year received a suspended sentence from a German court Friday.

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The hacker's worm attacked Windows operating systems

Sven Jaschan, now 19, was handed a suspended juvenile sentence of one year and nine months, a court spokeswoman said after the closed-door hearing. He was also ordered to perform 30 hours of public service in a hospital or retirement home.

The Sasser worm struck on May 1, 2004 and in less than a week hit thousands of companies and as many as 18 million computers worldwide, forcing some businesses to shut in order to debug their systems and causing millions of dollars in lost productivity.

Jaschan gave a full confession on the first day of his trial Tuesday on charges of computer sabotage, data manipulation and disruption of public administration. The charges would normally carry a prison sentence of up to five years for an adult.

Sasser exploited a flaw in certain versions of Microsoft's Windows operating systems -- Windows 2000, Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP -- and forced the computer into an unstoppable pattern of shutting down, then rebooting. It apparently did no lasting harm.

The German unit of the software giant welcomed the verdict and said it would pay a $250,000 (209,000 euro) reward to unnamed informants who had led to Jaschan's conviction.


Reluctant cooperation

A computer worm, unlike a virus, does not have to travel through e-mail but can spread by itself to any unprotected computer linked to the Internet. Sasser's victims were as far flung as the European Commission in Brussels, Taiwan's postal service and Australian rail traffic controllers. US airline Delta was forced to cancel several flights and Finland's third-largest bank shut its 130 branch offices in a preventive move to keep the worm from infecting its computers.

German prosecutors have only been able to document some 130,000 euros in damage from Sasser but computer experts say the true figure is in the millions. Many companies were reluctant to cooperate with the authorities for fear of acknowledging holes in their computer security systems.

Jaschan, whose parents own a computer service company, now works for a German security software firm called Securepoint which specializes in defenses against viruses and worms. A company representative told AFP during the trial Jaschan would remain an employee regardless of its outcome.

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