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Slovenian jailed for creating code behind 12 MILLION strong 'Mariposa' botnet army

Butterfly flapped its wings and caused internet hurricane

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A Slovenian virus writer who created an infamous strain of malware used to infect an estimated 12 million computers worldwide has been jailed for almost five years.

Matjaž Škorjanc (who operated under the handle Iserdo) was sentenced by a Slovenian court for writing the code used to create the infamous Mariposa botnet.

The virus writer, 27, was arrested in 2010 following a two-year-long investigation by the FBI as well as Spanish and Slovenian police. He had been a student of medicine and, later, computing.

He was sentenced in late December for offences related to the creation of Rimecud, a malware starter pack that spreads by copying itself to removable storage devices, instant messaging and P2P file-sharing systems. Once infected, compromised computers became part of an information-stealing botnet which hoovered up passwords and credit card details from victims.

Škorjanc's code was sold through underground forums to other cyber-criminals, including a trio of chancers in Spain who proved especially adept at spreading the malware. Their actions earned the whole malware outbreak a Spanish name – Mariposa being Spanish for “butterfly” – even though it spread worldwide.

The network of compromised PCs established using the Mariposa code was taken down back in 2009.

A regional court in the Slovenian city of Maribor convicted Škorjanc of malware creation and money laundering, jailing him for 58 months (four years and 10 months) in total. In addition, he was fined €3,000 and had his apartment and car, which were judged as being bought with the proceeds of crime, confiscated. Prosecutors claim that Škorjanc earned up to €114,000 from his crimes, while estimating the damage caused by Mariposa to run into tens of millions of euros.

Škorjanc’s ex-girlfriend, Nuša Čoh, also received a punishment of eight months’ probation for-money laundering as part of the same prosecution.

Škorjanc plans to appeal against his conviction. ®

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