Teenager gets suspended sentence for Internet worm
BERLIN – A German court convicted a teenager who wrote the Sasser Internet worm and knocked out an estimated one million computers in homes and businesses across the world.
The court in the northwestern German town of Verden gave Sven Jaschan, 19, a suspended jail sentence of one year and nine months after finding him guilty of computer sabotage.
The court said Jaschan concocted his plans over a long period and worked with “mischievous delight” to create new, better and faster versions of the worm, which crippled Microsoft Windows operating systems in May 2004.
Sasser victims ranged from the British Coastguard to the European Commission, Goldman Sachs and Australia’s Westpac Bank. Some security firms called it the most destructive worm ever.
“His goal was to improve the computer worm he programed, especially increasing the speed with which it spread and thus to maximize the damage he intended to cause,” the court said.
“He was in competition with others and caused immense, incalculable damage.”
Described by authorities as a “computer freak,” Jaschan pleaded guilty to charges of data manipulation, computer sabotage and interfering with public services.
However, because he was 17 when the crimes were committed, Jaschan was tried in a youth court and his punishment was far short of the maximum sentence of five years in jail for computer sabotage under German law.
The court said that while Jaschan had acted with “enormous criminal energy,” he had not done so for material gain. It noted he had been in a “difficult social situation.”
“He was very introverted and extremely shy at that time and was not integrated into his school class, which meant he had a strong need for recognition which he could achieve through his special abilities as a programmer,” the court said.
The court added that it took into account his behavior after the offences were committed and that he completed his education and achieved stable relationships.”
Court spokeswoman Katharina Kruetzfeldt said Jaschan had also been ordered to do 30 hours’ community service.
Microsoft paid a $250,000 reward from its anti-virus reward program for information from two informants leading to Jaschan’s arrest.
“We’re pleased that the author of the Sasser worm has admitted responsibility for the damage he caused and is being held accountable,” said Nancy Anderson, Microsoft vice president and deputy general counsel.
Louis M. Reigel, assistant director of the cyber division of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, said it was crucial law enforcers and private companies continued to cooperate across borders to counter computer worms and viruses.