Suspected Computer Virus Author Arrested

A 20-year-old man who goes by the online moniker OnTheFly is in police custody for allegedly writing the Anna Kournikova computer virus that tripped up e-mail systems around the world this week, an official said.

The young man handed himself over to the police, police spokesman Robert Rambonnet told ABCNEWS.com, and will be charged with wilfully damaging computer equipment.

Over the past few days, a computer virus has been clogging e-mail systems around the globe. Masquerading itself as a picture of Russian tennis starlet Anna Kournikova, the e-mail attachment was actually a virus.

"He's been very cooperative," said Rambonnet.

He is known at this time only by his online handle, OnTheFly because of Dutch privacy laws.

Rambonnet said the maximum penalty for damaging property is four years in jail.

The Anna Kournikova virus backed up e-mail systems and hundreds of thousands of computers from Australia to the United States.

The virus was traced by the Excite@Home computer network to a Dutch subscriber. Dutch police initially said they had no reason to investigate it.

Caught by His Own Admission On Tuesday, a person identifying himself as OnTheFLy claimed responsibility on an Internet site for writing and spreading the virus, saying it was meant as a warning to Internet users to tighten security.

”I admit writing the virus,” the Feb. 13 letter read.

“I never wanted to harm the people [who] open the attachment. But after all it’s their own fault they got infected,” it said.

The virus arrives as an e-mail attachment named “AnnaKournikova.jpg.vbs” and carries the message “Hi: Check This!” It promises to deliver a picture of the teenage tennis star, but does not actually contain a photo.

When the user clicks on the attachment, the virus is released, worming its way into address books and sending itself to everyone on the list, clogging e-mail servers.

The virus spread rapidly Monday, slowing down e-mail systems and forcing some companies to shut down e-mail altogether. Security experts said it does not permanently damage computers.

The outbreak was largely contained by Tuesday. The virus failed to infect as many computers in Asia as it did in Europe and the United States. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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