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LONDON, ENGLAND, 1995 NOV 16 -- In the first case of its kind in the United Kingdom, a computer user that wrote and spread viruses has been jailed for 18 months. The author wrote not just viruses, but also a virus masking program that meant many virus checkers could not detect and clean the infected files.

Christopher Pile, a 26 year-old of Pike Road, Plymouth, Devon, in Britain's south west, went under the name of "Black Baron" and wrote two computer viruses, Pathogen and Queeg, named after expressions used in the British Sci-Fi comedy "Red Dwarf."

What made these particularly dangerous was the addition of a third program which cloaked the two viruses, making them invisible to many virus checker programs. The cloaker software, named Smeg, also after a Red Dwarf expression, was attached to the viruses and distributed on its own so others could disguise their own creations.

Upon activation, the Pathogen virus would display a message on a user's screen, again based on a line from the TV series, that read, "Smoke me a kipper. I'll be back for breakfast. Unfortunately some of your data won't."

The Queeg virus was Pile's second creation and used a more advanced version of the Smeg cloaker software to disguise itself.

Pile was said to have distributed the software to virus makers and hackers worldwide on bulletin boards and the Internet and to have attached the software to other programs that users would unwittingly download and run. One infected program was a virus checker.

At Exeter Crown Court, Pile pleaded guilty to 11 offenses under the Computer Misuse Act of 1990. Specifically, five were of unauthorized access to computer systems to facilitate crime, five were of unauthorized modification of computer material, and one of inciting others to spread viruses. The offenses took place between 1993 and April, 1994.

In court, Brian Lett, prosecuting, claimed one unnamed company had suffered half a million pounds worth of damage ($780,000) as a result of the acts of Pile.

Upon sentencing, Judge Jeremy Griggs commented, "Those who seek to reap mindless havoc on one of the vital tools of our age cannot expect lenient treatment." He was then sentenced to 18 months in jail.
from newsbytes@clarinet.com - 16 Nov 95

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