A staggering 70 per cent of viral activity in the first half of this year can be linked to just one German teenager, according to anti-virus firm Sophos.
Sven Jaschan, 18, the self-confessed author of the NetSky and Sasser worms is blamed by Sophos for the vast majority of viral reports it recorded during the first six months of 2004. Just two of Jaschan's viruses - the infamous Sasser worm and NetSky-P - account for almost 50 per cent of all virus activity seen by Sophos up until the end of June. Counting Jaschan's other released variants of the NetSky worm, the total figure comes to over 70 per cent.
Jaschan was arrested at his home in the sleepy village of Waffensen, North Germany in early May following a tip-off from one of erstwhile mates (who have since become suspects themselves) to Microsoft. But for this arrest the situation could have been even worse, according to Sophos. The computer worm he created continues to spread despite the fact that their creator has been taken out of the equation. The Sasser worm hit home computer users worldwide, including the South African government, Taiwan's national post office, Sampo (Finland's third largest bank), RailCorp in Australia and the UK's coastguard service.
"It's like Pandora's box - once released viruses can carry on spreading even if the author has been caught or realises he has done something wrong," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "However, because Jaschan was under 18 at the time he released the viruses it's possible he will escape a stiff sentence if found guilty."
Sophos identified and released protection for 4,677 new viruses in the first six months of 2004, up 21 per cent on the same period last year. "Reassuringly, virus writers haven't had it all their own way so far in 2004. Increased scrutiny from law enforcement agencies and Microsoft's bounty initiative to encourage people to snitch on virus writers and led to Jaschan's high profile arrest in Germany," Cluley added. ®
Virus charts from Sophos 1H04