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Two British men were charged on Monday with conspiring to take over computers using malicious code.

Jordan Bradley, 20, of Bates Avenue, Darlington, and Andrew Harvey, 22, of Scardale Way, Durham, are believed by the National High Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) to be members of an underground cracking group called the "Thr34t-Krew" who launched the TK Worm (AKA Troj/TKBot-A) sometime before February this year.

The Trojan horse code attempts to exploit a vulnerability involving Microsoft's IIS Web Server software to break into vulnerable sites and give up their control to crackers. Microsoft released a patch for this vulnerability in October 2000 (see advisory here).

The TK worm allowed infected computers to be controlled over an IRC channel. A variety of actions, from scanning other computers for vulnerabilities to starting DDoS attacks on other computers and Web sites, could be initiated from infected hosts.

The worm caused disruption and damage to computer systems in the UK and elsewhere estimated at £5.5 million, according to statements by investigators made earlier this year.

Detectives at the National High Tech Crime Unit first quizzed the pair in February, following police raids in the UK and US aimed at dismantling the Thr34t-Krew. Bradley and Harvey were subsequently released on bail pending further inquiries, which ultimately led to charges against the duo this week.

They are charged with conspiring together and with others between January 1 2002 and February 6 2003 to "effect unauthorised modifications to the contents of computers with the intent to impair the operation of those computers, contrary to Section 1 of the Criminal Law Act 1977," according to a brief NHTCU statement of the case.

Bradley and Harvey are due to appear at Consett Magistrates Court on 18 September. ®

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