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WebTV 911 ne'er-do-well pleads guilty

Viewers' PCs dialled emergency services

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A 44-year-old Louisiana man has pleaded guilty to sending an email attachment which reprogrammed MS's WebTV service viewers' computers, causing them to dial 911, the United States Attorney's Office reports.

David Jeansonne 'fessed up to two counts of "intentionally damaging protected computers, causing a threat to public safety and losses of over $5,000" in July 2002. He admitted that "the email attachment contained a hidden computer script that reset the dial-in telephone number in the user's WebTV box to 9-1-1. Accordingly, the next time the user attempted to log in to WebTV, the computer dialed 9-1-1 instead of the local modem telephone number supplied to the user by WebTV to access its servers in Santa Clara. At least 10 WebTV users reported that the local police either called or visited their residences in response to the unnecessary 9-1-1 calls."

The offending email - sent to around 20 WebTV subscribers - claimed that the attachment was "harmless computer program that, when executed, changed the display colors seen by the WebTV user on the television screen".

Jeansonne faces a possible maximum sentence of 10 years' jail on each count and a $250,000 fine. He is due in court on 14 March for sentencing. ®

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