Dutch police arrest Kournikova virus suspect

Fan confesses to creating virus inspired by Anna Kournikova

Police in the Netherlands have arrested a man in connection with the creation of the Kournikova virus after he turned himself in to the authorities.

The 20-year-old, a self-proclaimed fan of the Russian tennis star, confessed to creating the virus and handed himself in after seeing the damage it had caused, police said in a statement.

"When it became clear what the virus was causing, and after consulting his parents, he decided to turn himself in," Dutch police said. Police say that the man used the online nickname OnTheFly, which appears in the code of the Kournikova virus and is thought to be that of its creator.

An individual claiming to be OnTheFly confessed to creating the virus in an evidently remorseful message posted to the Internet portal Excite@Home Tuesday. The author of this message said he was inspired to create the virus to prove that people remain naive about the danger of viruses. He cited a recent report from market research firm IDC, which indicated that few people had learnt their lesson from previous virus incidents and were still likely to open suspect attachments.

The IDC research indicated that more than a third of business computer users would still open the Love Bug virus, which is estimated to have cost £4.8bn of damage when it struck in May last year. "I think IDC is right," he wrote. "I also think that you agree with me, according to the rate of spreading... Maybe this is also Anna's blame, she is so pretty."

The writer also tries to absolve himself of blame for the damage caused by the virus.

"Last thing I'd like to say is that I never wanted to harm the people you opened the attachment. But after all: it's their own fault they got infected," says the message.

Antivirus experts, however, say there is little excuse for creating something so damaging. "However stupid people are for clicking on it, [the creator] is still to blame," says Graham Cluley, chief technologist with UK antivirus firm Sophos. "It sends out the right message to virus-writers and I hope they will be watching this case closely."

Excite@Home said Tuesday it was trying to track down a Dutch subscriber believed to be OnTheFly. The virus, also known as VBS/SST, VBS_Kalamar, and VBS/OnTheFly, was written in the Visual Basic scripting language and designed to make contact with a Dutch Web site before sending itself on to everyone in a victim's address book.

Running and updating antivirus software is a complete pain, which is why most users don't bother. Guy Kewney says we know that anybody with a brick heavy enough to break our windows could get into our houses; and that it would cost a fortune to make the house significantly more secure. So we take refuge in statistics -- it's not likely to happen, really; so we'll hope it doesn't. Go to AnchorDesk UK for the news comment.

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