How much is a hacker's head worth?

Monday, 24 November 2003, 1:35 PM EST

When it comes to fighting traditional crime, tipsters play an integral role in reporting suspicious activities, questionable characters and true confessions. But while few people question the existence of Crime Stopper hotlines or highway billboards, Microsoft's recent plan to offer a bounty for information leading to the arrest of malware authors brings tip lines into the digital age.

Since it was founded in the mid-1970s, the Crime Stoppers organization has helped clear more than 1 million cases, been responsible for more than 500,000 arrests and paid nearly US$65 million in rewards, according to the group's Web site.

In contrast, Microsoft launched its Anti-Virus Reward Program with $5 million in its coffers. The program is designed to help the FBI, U.S. Secret Service and Interpol identify and arrest individuals who write and release malicious viruses and worms on the Internet. The Redmond, Washington-based industry giant has set aside two rewards of $250,000 each for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for launching the MSBlast.A and Sobig worms.

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