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Sentencing the Author of the 'Anna Kournikova Worm'

On the 27 September 2001, Jan de Wit (the author of VBS/VBSWG.J@mm, better known as the ‘Anna Kournikova Worm’) was sentenced to 150 hours community service, or, if he prefers, 75 days in jail. When this worm appeared, it spread rapidly worldwide and quickly reached the top of the lists of most anti-virus developers. It caused widespread disruption, so many say that the sentence is too lenient:

Graham Cluely of Sophos said, “Considering that Anna K. was one of the top five viruses of all time and was as big as Melissa, the prosecutor's request sends out all the wrong signals to the industry.”

Jason Holloway, U.K. general manager with F-Secure, said he was disappointed with the light sentence; “It may be due to the FBI’s lack of specimen charges against de Wit, but it does not send the right message to the industry.”

Opinion at the Virus Bulletin Conference generally agreed that 150 hours of community service was too lenient, but the 18-month jail time that Christopher Pile was given by British courts in 1995 was too harsh.

The major problem does seem to have been with evidence of damage: the FBI was only able to list 55 incidents of infection, causing just US$166,827 worth of damage. In the July issue of this Newsletter, I talked about the importance of reporting - this case reiterates the lesson of the CIH case, without reports, there is nothing to charge the criminals with if they are caught.

However, there are some positive aspects to the case: The judge rejected de Wit’s plea that he did not understand the consequences of posting the worm to a newsgroup. Additionally, de Wit’s computer and collection of viruses (reported as over 7000) has been confiscated. Realistically, both can be replaced, but replacing the virus collection in particular will be time-consuming, hopefully, he simply will not bother. Also, the case has been dealt with relatively quickly - the worm started spreading on 12 February 2001, and we have a sentence on 27 September 2001. In contrast, Melissa started spreading 26 March 1999 and it’s author, David Smith, has yet to be sentenced in the USA. Justice should be swift and accurate.