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Script kiddie faces up to 3 years' jail

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A Minnesota teenager pleaded guilty yesterday to unleashing a variant of the Blaster worm last August.

Jeffrey Lee Parson, 19, of Hopkins, Minnesota, admitted "intentionally causing damage to a protected computer" before a federal judge in Seattle yesterday as part of a plea bargaining arrangement. He faces between 18 to 37 months in prison for his crime instead of a maximum sentence of ten years in jail. Parson may also be ordered to pay a fine, which could run into millions of dollars, according to Assistant US Attorney Annette Hayes.

Parson created the Blaster-B variant of the worm after modifying the original Blaster worm and launching it onto the Internet in early August 2003. Blaster-B launched a distributed denial-of-service attack against a Microsoft's Windows update website from infected computers.

The original Blaster worm infected about one million computers last summer, the Seattle Times reports. Parson's variant hit far fewer computers. In his plea agreement, Parson admitted using his variant of Blaster worm to commandeer 50 computers which he then used to launch a broader attack on more than 48,000 computers, Reuters reports. Parson's defence team says the number of infected computers is lower than this.

"We need to keep this case in perspective," said Carole Theriault, security consultant at AV firm Sophos. "The Blaster-B variant didn't spread with anything like as much ferocity as the original. Blaster-A's author has yet to be tracked down, despite the bounty on his or her head. It's important that Parson is punished for his wrongdoing, and not be made a scapegoat for the whole Blaster epidemic."

Blaster and its variants are Internet worms which spread through exploiting a well-known vulnerability in Microsoft Windows. Blaster-B is functionally equivalent to its predecessor but creates a file called teekids.exe - rather than msblast.exe - in the Windows system folder. Parson's online handle is "teekid" or "t33kid". This and various other clues led the authorities to his door and he was arrested on 29 August 2003.

Since his arrest, Parson has been out of jail on $25,000 bail and has been under electronic home monitoring. He initially denied the charges against him but changed his plea yesterday. Parson faces a sentencing hearing before US District Judge Marsha Pechman on 12 November. ®

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