Sasser suspect walks free

Probation and no fine for 'world's worst' VXer

The teenage author of the infamous Sasser worm has been sentenced to one year and nine months probation following his conviction for computer sabotage offences. Sven Jaschan, 19, escaped a prison sentence after confessing to computer sabotage and illegally altering data at the beginning of his trial in the German town of Verden this week. Jaschan will also have to serve 30 hours community service at the local hospital but he escaped any fine.

The teenager was tried behind closed doors in a juvenile court because he was 17 at the time the worm was created, a mitigating factor that went a long way to ensuring Jaschan escaped a more severe punishment for the havoc he wrought.

Sasser is a network aware worm that exploited a well-known Microsoft vulnerability (in Windows Local Security Authority Subsystem Service - MS04-011) to infect thousands of systems in May 2004. German prosecutors picked three German city governments and a broadcaster whose systems were disrupted by Sasser as specimen victims in the prosecution against Jaschan. These organisations were selected from the 143 plaintiffs with estimated damages of $157,000 who have contacted the authorities. All indications are that this is the tip of a very large iceberg. Anti-virus firm Sophos reckons Jaschan was responsible for more than 55 per cent of the viruses reported it last year, thanks to his role in creating bot the Sasser and NetSky worms.

"Jaschan's worms caused considerable damage, but was committed when he was still a junior. Some who have to defend computer systems against worms may feel frustrated that the sentence isn't stronger, but it has to be remembered that he was a young kid who did something immensely dumb rather than one of the organised crime gangs intent on stealing money via viruses that we are now commonly encountering," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at anti-virus firm Sophos.

"It is, however, surprising that there doesn't appear to any fine attached to his sentence. From the sound of things Jaschan will go into work at the security firm that employs him [Securepoint] just as normal tomorrow morning."

Jaschan was arrested in the village of Waffensen near Rotenburg, in northern Germany, on suspicion of writing and distributing the Sasser worm in May 2004. The teenager later confessed to police that he was both the author of Sasser and the original creator of the NetSky worm.

He was arrested after a tip-off to Microsoft from individuals (Jaschan's erstwhile friends) hoping to cash in through Microsoft's Anti-Virus Reward Program. Investigators questioned Jaschan's mates on suspicion of assisting his virus writing activities but none have been charged. ®

Related links

Sasser author sentencing report, by German daily Der Spiegel

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