Kournikova virus writer loses appeal

A Dutch appeals court on Monday upheld the conviction of the 22-year-old man who created and unleashed the Anna Kournikova e-mail worm last year.

Jan de Wit of Sneek, Netherlands, was sentenced to 150 hours of community service by the appeals court in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, for creating and sending out the e-mail worm. The verdict is identical to the one handed down by the Leeuwarden district court in September last year.

"I had hoped he would be found not guilty," said Theo Jansen, De Wit's lawyer. "My client never intended to do any damage and no damage was ever proven."

No damage claims were filed with the prosecutor's office, but the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) did identify 55 victims of the Kournikova worm with a total damage of US$166,827.

De Wit used a worm-making toolkit to create a worm that, under the guise of an e-mail image of Russian tennis star Anna Kournikova, spread like wildfire for two days in February 2001.

At the trial before the district court, De Wit stated that he did not know what he was doing or what the consequences of posting the virus in an Internet newsgroup could be. The judges did not believe him because De Wit had a collection of about 7,200 computer viruses and worked in a computer store.

Damage done by the Kournikova worm was limited, but could have been significant. The exponential spreading could have paralyzed the Internet and De Wit knew that, the court said.

De Wit was charged with spreading data via a computer network with the intent to cause damage, a crime punishable by four years in prison and a maximum fine of about €45,000 (US$44,000).The prosecutor before the district court asked the court for 240 hours of community service.

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