UK virus writers jailed

Cybercops claim a victory as two men receive prison terms for contributing to a virus that was used to create botnets

Two UK men were jailed on Friday for their involvement in a plot to write and distribute a computer virus.

Jordan Bradley, 22, of Darlington, and Andrew Harvey, 23, of County Durham, were identified as members of the hacking group THr34t Krew. Harvey was jailed for six months, and Bradley for three months.

THr34t Krew was an international group, which created the TK worm. PCs infected by the TK worm could be used to scan other computers for vulnerabilities, or formed into a botnet and used in distributed DoS attacks.

Newcastle Crown Court heard that the TK worm was known to have infected 15,000 computers worldwide, although the total number was impossible to quantify. The National Hi-tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) believes that millions of computers were actually infected by TK.

Police in the UK and in America worked together to break-up the THr34t Krew. Earlier this year a US citizen, Raymond Stegerwalt, was jailed for 21 months for his role in the group.

"Our task is to track down those people who seek to hamper companies by reducing their ability to do business and I hope that these sentences deliver a tough message," said detective superintendent Mick Deats, Deputy Head of the NHTCU, in a statement.

According to Pete Simpson, ThreatLab manager at Clearswift, Bradley and Harvey were effectively 'recreational hackers', rather than serious criminals.

"As far as I'm aware, they didn't benefit financially," Simpson told ZDNet UK.

"The fact they got caught speaks volumes — that's pretty damn amateur. These days, cybercriminals hide their traces three times around the world. They certainly don't get caught in Darlington," Simpson said.

Bradley and Harvey were prosecuted under the Criminal Law Act rather than the Computer Misuse Act (CMA), which came under fire this week following the conviction of a computer consultant who gained unauthorised access to a Tsunami appeal Web site.

Felicity Bull of the NHTCU explained this is because Bradley and Harvey were charged with conspiracy, which isn't covered by the CMA.