Questions surround Romanian Blaster suspect

Conflicting reports emerged Friday about the fate of a Romanian man suspected of being the author of a version of the Blaster worm, which affects Microsoft Windows machines.

Romanian police on Thursday officially denied reports that they had a suspect in custody for allegedly creating the W32.Blaster-F worm, according to a report from the Associated Press. However, the Romanian antivirus company that fingered the 24 year-old suspect said Friday that he was at police headquarters in Iasi, Romania, and cooperating with police.

"They're not denying it any more," said Mihai Radu, communications manager for Softwin SRL, a computer security company based in Bucharest.

"We've been talking to (the police) today. They've identified the subject and are investigating him," Radu said.

Softwin, which owns the BitDefender security software brand, is helping police with their investigation into the Blaster-F variant, which contained hidden messages, written in Romanian, and references to a university and professor in the city of Iasi.

The company was the first to announce a breakthrough in the case, releasing a statement on Wednesday that authorities in Romania had arrested Dan Dumitru Ciobanu of Iasi and charged him with creating and releasing the Blaster-F worm. However, no official acknowledgement of Ciobanu's arrest followed the statements from Softwin.

Mikhaela Mixim, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office in Bucharest, said that she did not have any information on the case, referring requests to the chief prosecutor in Iasi. Calls to that office went unanswered.

As a result, the main source of information about the investigation continues to be Softwin.

Speaking on Friday, Radu stuck by his company's public statements, saying that police in Iasi had arrested Ciobanu on Wednesday after tracking him down at work and seized computer equipment from his home.

The suspect was released shortly after and disappeared, only to reappear Friday at police headquarters saying that he wanted to cooperate with the investigation, he said.

Ciobanu allegedly used the online name "enbiei," a phoneticized version of NBA, the National Basketball Association in the U.S., which was also the name of the Blaster-F virus file, Radu said.

He is now helping police try to recover information from a computer hard drive taken from his home, Radu said. The information on that drive was erased on Monday, after Ciobanu read a BitDefender press release linking the Blaster-F worm to Romania, Radu said.

Romanian police may be reluctant to speak about the case until they have enough evidence to convict Ciobanu, Radu said. Officials are planning to hold a news conference Wednesday to discuss their findings, he said.

In the meantime, Softwin experts are helping police by analyzing copies of the data taken from Ciobanu's hard drive, he said.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation had no information on the arrest and was referring questions about the case to Romanian authorities, said spokesman Bill Murray.

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