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Bill Gates Puts $5 Million Bounty on Heads of Worm and Virus Writers

WASHINGTON, Nov. 5 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) today announced the creation of the Anti-Virus Reward Program, initially funded with $5 million (U.S.), to help law enforcement agencies identify and bring to justice those who illegally release damaging worms, viruses and other types of malicious code on the Internet. Microsoft will provide the monetary rewards for information resulting in the arrest and conviction of those responsible for launching malicious viruses and worms on the Internet. Residents of any country are eligible for the reward, according to the laws of that country, because Internet viruses affect the Internet community worldwide.

As part of the Reward Program, Microsoft announced the first reward in the amount of a quarter-million dollars (U.S.) for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for unleashing the MSBlast.A worm. Although two arrests were made in connection with the B and C variants of the MSBlast worm, those responsible for releasing the original worm this summer remain at large. The worm was designed to attack Microsoft's http://www.windowsupdate.com Web site, which provides fixes for vulnerabilities and helps protect users against malicious attacks.

Microsoft offered a second quarter-million-dollar reward for information that results in the arrest and conviction of those responsible for unleashing the Sobig virus. This virus, the first variant of which was detected Jan. 10, 2003, attacked individual machines and e-mailed itself to each e-mail address in the computer's contact list. The Sobig.B and Sobig.C variants of the virus made messages appear as if they had come from official Microsoft e-mail addresses. No arrests have been made in connection with the Sobig virus.

"Malicious worms and viruses are criminal attacks on everyone who uses the Internet," said Brad Smith, senior vice president and general counsel at Microsoft. "Even as we work to make software more secure and educate users on how to protect themselves, we are also working to stamp out the criminal behavior that causes this problem. These are not just Internet crimes, cybercrimes or virtual crimes. These are real crimes that hurt a lot of people. Those who release viruses on the Internet are the saboteurs of cyberspace, and Microsoft wants to help the authorities catch them."

Representatives of three law enforcement agencies, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Secret Service and Interpol, today joined Microsoft at the National Press Club news conference, where the company provided details of the reward program.

"The malicious distribution of worms and viruses, such as MSBlast and Sobig, are far from victimless crimes," said Keith Lourdeau, Acting Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI Cyber Division. "Such attacks on the Internet cost businesses worldwide millions -- some estimates claim billions - of dollars and wreak havoc on individuals by ruining files, hard drives and other critical data. We intend to vigorously pursue the perpetrators of these crimes, and we hope to see additional industry-government collaboration to identify these individuals."

"Not only are we concerned with apprehending those individuals who commit computer crimes but also in limiting the damage done by these criminals to private industry and the public," said Bruce Townsend, deputy assistant director of investigations at the Secret Service. "By working together, the public, the private sector and law enforcement can combine their resources to effectively combat computer-based crimes like the MSBlast.A worm and Sobig virus."

"Interpol is particularly interested in fighting the malicious spreading of viruses because this represents truly borderless crime that requires a truly global response, a global collaboration between police and private industry," said Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Noble, at the organization's headquarters in Lyon. "This Microsoft reward program is an opportunity to continue building effective relationships between the world's police and the private sector in order to prevent and prosecute cybercrime."

Individuals with information about the MSBlast.A worm or the Sobig virus, or any other worms or viruses, should contact the following international law enforcement agencies:

-- International/Interpol: via the Interpol National Central Bureau in any of Interpol's 181 member countries or at http://www.interpol.int/

-- FBI or Secret Service: via any local field office

-- The Internet Fraud Complaint Center: at http://www.ifccfbi.gov

Juvenile arrested for worm that spread in the same way as the MSBlast worm

The suspect is thought to have created and released a worm that exploits a security flaw in Microsoft operating systems, according to a statement released by the Justice Department. The worm--known as Spybot.worm.lz, Randex.E and RPCSdbot--infects systems by taking advantage of a security flaw Microsoft revealed in mid-July.

The Justice Department said the arrest puts Internet scofflaws on notice.

"Computer hackers need to understand that they will be pursued and held accountable for malicious activity, whether they be adults or juveniles," John McKay, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, said in the statement.

Because the suspect is a minor, the Justice Department declined to reveal his or her name or gender. A department representative was unavailable for immediate comment.

The arrest is the second stemming from viruses spread by online vandals exploiting the flaw. The original MSBlast worm (also known as Blaster and Lovsan), along with a flawed copycat known as Welchia and Nachi that was intended to protect vulnerable systems from the original worm, likely infected more than a million computers. More on this story --->>

From SANS Newsbytes (http://www.sans.org): Student Pleads Guilty to Breaking into US National Lab Computer System (31 October 2003) A British university student has pleaded guilty to breaking into a number of computer systems at the Fermi National Accelerator laboratory in Illinois. 18-year-old Joseph James McElroy used the compromised computers to store movie and music files. More on this story --->>

From SANS Newsbytes (http://www.sans.org): --Trojan Defense Successful Three Times in UK Courts (28 October 2003) Three cases in UK courts have set a significant precedent for prosecuting those accused of cyber crimes. In all three cases, defendants' attorneys successfully argued that their clients' computers had been hijacked by Trojan horse programs and therefore the defendants were not responsible for the alleged crimes. While some view the precedent as a safeguard against convicting innocent people, others are concerned that it gives cyber criminals a blanket defense. The Trojan defense has not yet been used in the US court system. http://www.computerworld.com/printthis/2003/0,4814,86600,00.html http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/55/33636.html [Editor's Note (Schultz): I fear that this will become the universally-used defense in cybercrime cases. Juries are not likely to know enough to see past this type of alibi.]

More about the woes of computer criminals --->>

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