A year ago today, the Hungarian virus author Laszlo K was sentenced to two years probation and ordered to pay 500,000 forints (around $2,400) in court costs. The charge? Unauthorised computer access. The court case followed the spread of the Magold.a virus, which used crude social engineering tactics to lure unsuspecting users into launching the malicious code: the virus posed as a screensaver of Hungarian porn star Maya Gold.
Laszlo K was just one of the virus writers arrested during 2004. The year also saw the arrest of Sven Jaschen, who admitted to writing Sasser and some Netsky variants. His trial will start in a week's time. The author of the numerous Agobot/Phatbot worm families was arrested, as was Oscar Lopez Hinarejos, a computer engineer from Spain, was arrested and tried for distributing the Cabrotor Trojan: he was sentenced to two years in prison. Later in the year, Jeffrey Lee Parson, a teenager from Minnesota, pleaded guilty to damaging computers by creating the Lovesan.b worm and in December a 16 year old British teenager received a six month suspended sentence for releasing the Randex worm.
Viruses and worms have evolved rapidly over the past few years and now pose a global threat. However, law enforcement agencies are also pooling their resources to gain a global reach. One successful joint operation was the arrest of 28 people in October last year in connection with identity theft in six countries. The operation involved the US Secret Service, the UK National Hi-Tech Crime Unit, the Vancouver Police Department's Financial Crimes Section (Canada), the Royal Mounted Police (Canada), Europol and police agencies in Belarus, Poland, Sweden, The Netherlands and Ukraine. More recently, we've seen the collaboration of the Israeli authorities and Interpol as part of Operation Horse Race, which led to a number of businessmen being detained.