Microsoft gives Blaster author a break on damages

The teenaged creator of the Blaster worm won't have to pay Microsoft $497,546.55. He can work it off by doing community service.

The teen convicted of creating a variant of the Blaster worm won't have to pay Microsoft US$497,546.55 in restitution. He can instead work it off by doing community service.

Microsoft has agreed to forego the cash and convert the punishment into 225 hours of community service, according to a court document filed late Tuesday. Jeffrey Lee Parson, a 19 year-old from Hopkins, Minnesota, will have to work 75 hours per year over a three-year period with less fortunate members of his community. The work cannot involve computers or the Internet, according to the document.

Parson last year pleaded guilty to creating the W32.Blaster-B worm, which infected tens of thousands of computers in 2003. In January he was sentenced to 18 months in prison followed by a three-year supervised release and 100 hours of community service. The parties later stipulated that Parson owed Microsoft nearly half a million dollars in restitution.

The Blaster variant appeared a few days after the original in August 2003. Both worms took advantage of flaws in Microsoft's Windows operating systems that allowed hackers to take control of PCs. The Blaster worms instructed infected PCs to launch denial-of-service attacks on Microsoft's Windows Update Web site on certain dates.

Parson's variant used a file name that was identical to a domain name registered in his name. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation was able to trace the domain name to computers owned by Parson. He was arrested days after his variant appeared.

"We are pleased this prosecution has been fully resolved with a prison sentence and appropriate restitution. Parson's additional community service will have a stronger impact on him in serving his sentence," said Tim Cranton, senior attorney with the Internet Safety Enforcement team at Microsoft, in a statement provided by Microsoft's public relations agency.

The agreement between Microsoft and Parson still has to be approved by Judge Marsha Pechman, who in January gave Parson a break at sentencing. The sentence could been as long as 37 months in prison but Pechman chose the lighter sentence based on Parson's age, history of mental illness and lack of parental supervision, prosecutors said at the time.

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Joris Evers

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