- The Washington Times - Friday, August 29, 2003

FBI agents yesterday arrested a Minnesota teenager suspected of making a copycat variant of the devastating “Blaster” Internet worm that spread a virus to thousands of computers worldwide.

Jeffrey Lee Parson, 18, a high school senior in Hopkins, Minn., was named in a 12-page criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in St. Paul, Minn., accused of one count of “intentionally causing and attempting to cause damage to a protected computer.”

According to the complaint, the teenager — described as being 6-foot-4 and weighing 320 pounds — was not the author of the original Blaster virus but was responsible for taking that worm and changing it into a more sinister version known as the “B-variant.”

U.S. Attorney John McKay in Seattle, where the Blaster investigation began, said Mr. Parson faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

The teen was arrested near his home and, during an initial court appearance yesterday, was ordered by U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Richard Nelson to remain under house arrest with electronic surveillance and without access to the Internet until a Sept. 17 court appearance in Seattle.

During the brief hearing, Mr. Parson — known online as “teekid” — told Judge Nelson he understood the charges against him. He did not enter a plea, although the FBI said he admitted creating the virus. The judge said she would name a public defender as his attorney after he said he had no income and only $3 in a savings account.

Judge Nelson warned Mr. Parson that failure to obey her order to remain at home would result in his arrest and incarceration. She also said he would be fined up to $25,000 if he missed any future court hearings. He is allowed to leave his home only to go to school or to a doctor.

Court documents said the Parson home was searched Aug. 19 by FBI and Secret Service agents, who seized seven computers, which are still being analyzed.

Authorities said the B-variant virus gave Mr. Parson access to individual computers, including personal communications and finances, although they did not elaborate.

They said he made little effort to disguise his identity, since every victim’s computer sent signals back to the “t33kid.com” Web site he had registered in his own name.

The B-variant worm, which bored into computers through a weak spot in Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating systems, circulated widely over the Internet but ultimately infected fewer machines — about 7,000 — than the original Blaster worm, which affected more than 500,000 computers, authorities said. The B-variant is said to have caused $5 million to $10 million in damages to Microsoft alone.

The creator of the original Blaster virus, a self-replicating Internet worm that takes over poorly defended computers and causes them to shut down and restart frequently, has yet to be found. The original virus is believed to have been released Aug. 11.

Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration shut down for a day after its computer system was infected with the original virus. The virus caused an overload at Sweden’s TeliaSonera AB, the largest telephone company in the Nordic region, and forced the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta to shut down its computer system.

Earlier this week, the FBI announced it was working to identify the person or persons responsible for creating and spreading the Blaster worm, and encouraged computer users to take steps to protect themselves.

“Protecting the nation’s cyberinfrastructure is a top priority for the FBI, and we are working with the Department of Homeland Security and with state and local law enforcement on our Cyber Task Forces to track down the perpetrators of Sobig and the recent W32/Blaster worm,” said FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III.

“We employ the latest technology and code analysis to direct us to potential sources, and I am confident that we will find the culprits,” he said.

Jana Monroe, assistant director of the FBI’s cyberdivision, said exposure to new and malicious computer codes including “worms, viruses, Trojan horses and their variants” has become a part of being in cyberspace, “but there are steps that individuals and businesses can take to protect themselves.”

To protect against Sobig, W32/Blaster and other worms and viruses, she said all computer users who connect to the Internet, including home users, and all computer systems administrators must remain vigilant by updating their antivirus software regularly.

She said patches are available for Sobig and Blaster, but those who have not downloaded a patch remain vulnerable.

Computer users also should exercise caution in opening any e-mail or attachments from unknown people or companies, she said.

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