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A 24 year-old British man, believed to have written a computer worm that gave backdoor access to infected systems, has been arrested in a joint FBI, Scotland Yard operation.

The unnamed man allegedly wrote the Leave worm, which affects machines already infected with the with Sub7 Trojan horse program, and failed to cause much damage or spread widely when it first appeared in June. However variants of the worm were created that posed as emailed security warnings from Microsoft and this may be why the authorities have taken a particular interest in tracking down the perpetrator.

Reports suggest the alleged virus writer, who was arrested on July 23, has been released after being charged with offences under the UK's Computer Misuse Act that carry a sentence of up to five years in prison.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at anti-virus vendor Sophos, said the industry is keen to see the FBI taking decisive action against virus authors, particularly after it had "blotted its copybook" with its inaction against the author of the Melissa virus.

David Smith remains free on bail despite pleading guilty to creating Melissa, one of the first email worms, more than twenty months ago.

In comparison the Leave worm did little harm, and Cluley said it wouldn't be appropriate to mete out a long custodial sentence even if the suspect is convicted.

It would be welcome if the courts imposed a meaningful deterrent sentence rather than asking a convicted man to "do a spot of gardening for the judge" though, Cluley added. ®

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