Published January 13, 2015
The teenager who created the "Sasser" (search) computer worm that created havoc as it raced around the world last year was convicted Friday on charges including computer sabotage and given a suspended sentence, a court official said.
Sven Jaschan (search), 19, was found guilty of computer sabotage and illegally altering data, said Katharina Kruetzfeld, a spokeswoman for the court in the northwestern town of Verden. He was given a suspended sentence of one year and nine months.
Jaschan also must perform 30 hours of community service at a hospital or home for the elderly but will not have to pay court costs.
Jaschan admitted to creating the worm at the beginning of his trial Tuesday — reiterating a confession to authorities at the time of his arrest in May 2004.
Sasser exploited a flaw in Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 2000 (search) and Windows XP (search) operating systems. It caused infected computers to crash and reboot, making it impossible to work on them. The worm snarled hundreds of thousands of computers and caused Internet traffic to slow. German prosecutors estimate that damages ran into the millions of dollars.
Following the conviction, Microsoft said two people who had helped identify Jaschan would share a $250,000 reward.
Jaschan was arrested at his family's home after Microsoft received a tip from an informant seeking a reward, though prosecutors later said the informant was among five people under investigation as possible accomplices. Microsoft did not identify the reward recipients or say whether they were among the five or included the original informant.
Authorities who questioned Jaschan said they got the impression his motive was to gain fame as a programmer. He was arrested sitting at his computer at the house of his mother, who runs a computer store in the small northern town of Waffensen.
The teenager has told officials his original intention was to create a virus, "Netsky A," that would combat the "Mydoom" and "Bagle" viruses, removing them from infected computers. That led him to develop the Netsky virus further — and to modify it to create Sasser.
The court, which tried Jaschan behind closed doors because he was a minor at the time of the offense, said in its ruling that he "acted out of a need for recognition" and not for commercial aims.
Prosecutors had sought a two-year suspended sentence and 200 hours of community work, while the defense sought a one-year sentence. Both sides accepted Friday's verdict.
Defense lawyer Jens Moewe said Jaschan was relieved the trial was over.
Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for London technology consulting group Sophos PLC, said the court likely was more lenient because of Jaschan's age.
"Sven Jaschan avoided a jail sentence by the skin of his teeth because he was arrested within days of his 18th birthday," Cluley said. "In many ways, Sven Jaschan was lucky that the police caught him when they did."
Virus writers have had sentences reduced before because of their age, though an American teenager who created a version of the 2003 "Blaster" worm was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman said she sentenced Jeffrey Lee Parson, 19, of Hopkins, Minn., at the low end of the agreed-upon range because although he was 18 at the time of the attack his maturity level was much younger than that. Parson had faced a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.