Suspected Computer Virus Author Arrested

ByABC News

Feb. 14, 2001 -- 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 fouryears in jail.

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

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

Caught by His Own AdmissionOn Tuesday, a person identifying himself as OnTheFLy claimedresponsibility on an Internet site for writing and spreading thevirus, saying it was meant as a warning to Internet users totighten 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: CheckThis!” It promises to deliver a picture of the teenage tennisstar, 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 everyoneon the list, clogging e-mail servers.

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

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

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