Four Chinese men have been charged with creating and spreading an internet worm in a rare example of a cybercrime prosecution in the country.
Li Jun, Wang Lei, Zhang Shun, and Lei Lei faced charges in a people's court in Hubei Province on Tuesday over the alleged creation and distribution of the Fujacks worm, Shanghai Daily reports.
The worm converted icons of infected programs into a picture of a panda burning joss-sticks, while surreptitiously stealing the user names and passwords from online games players.
The worm infected an estimated one million Windows PCs in China, the worst ever outbreak, which goes a long way to explaining the hard line taken by authorities over the attack.
25-year-old Li Jun confessed to creating the malware, which he allegedly sold to 12 cohorts - personally making 100,000 yuan ($12,500) in the process. The men face charges punishable by up to to five years' imprisonment if convicted. Li's alleged clients turned co-accused allegedly made their money back and more by selling black-market access to online games.
In a curious development, Chinese police reportedly planned to release a Fujacks clean up program created by Li Jun rather than relying on disinfection tools from anti-virus vendors.
"It remains to be seen whether the powers that be in China act more sympathetically to Li Jun, given that he apparently wrote a program to clean-up the infection," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos.
"However our recommendation remains to use legitimate anti-virus software to deal with a malware infestation - not to rely on a tool that may have been written by one of the hackers responsible for the outbreak in the first place."
The case illustrates how greed has increasingly replaced mischief as a motive for virus writing, he added. ®