Computer virus creators rarely face jail

Tuesday, 2 September 2003, 1:11 PM EST

A Minnesota teenager was arrested Friday, accused of disseminating a version of "Blaster." But investigators scrambling to trace that infection, along with "Sobig" and other computer viruses face a daunting challenge: an incredibly hard-to-track international crime set in an obscure and anonymous environment.

They also say they are hampered by antiquated laws and, for many years, a winking or even admiring attitude toward virus creators.

One person has been sent to prison in the United States and just two in Britain, authorities say. But the low numbers are "not reflective of how seriously we take these cases, but more reflective of the fact that these are very hard cases," said Chris Painter, the deputy chief of computer crimes at the U.S. Department of Justice.

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