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Sasser worm suspect goes on trial

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Legal

A German teenager responsible for the Sasser computer worm pandemic goes on trial Tuesday. He faces charges of computer sabotage, data manipulation and disruption of public systems.

The Sasser worm didn’t require users to receive an email or open a file to be infected -- just having a vulnerable Windows machine connected to the Internet was enough.

The IT departments of many organizations were caught unawares, and the worm spread further. At the European Commission in Brussels, 1,200 computers shut down. In the United States, Delta Airlines was forced to cancel several flights.

In the German city of Hanover, staff at the Post Bank took a step back in time and recorded transactions on paper. And in Seattle, Microsoft promised a reward of $250,000 (210,000 euros) for information leading to the responsible hacker.

By exploiting a known hole in the local security component of Windows operating system, the worm spread quickly, infecting hundreds of thousands of computers in just a few days, overloading processors and forcing systems into an unstoppable pattern of shutting down, then rebooting. It apparently did no lasting harm.

Microsoft had issued a security bulletin and a patch to correct the problem two weeks earlier, but only the companies and individuals who installed the update were protected.

It's estimated that the economic cost of the Sasser worm attack ran into millions of dollars, and it was all caused by Sven Jaschan, an 18-year-old school student working from his basement in the small North German village of Waffensen.

Attracted by the reward, two of the hacker’s schoolmates tipped off Microsoft, who then informed the police.

Seven days after the worm was released, police arrested the hacker and seized his computer as evidence. After confessing, the youth was released, and within 5 months was employed as an IT trainee at Securepoint, a German software security company. But now it’s time for the now-19-year-old to face the music -- more or less.

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