A Minnesota teenager will appear in federal court in St. Paul Friday to face charges stemming from the release of a variant of the virulent W32.Blaster Internet worm that ravaged computer systems worldwide earlier this month.
Jeffrey Lee Parsons, 18, will appear before federal magistrate Judge Susan Richard Nelson at 2 p.m. CDT at the James R. Dougan Federal Building in St. Paul, Minnesota, according to Deputy Clerk Mike Chutich.
According to a complaint filed at the court, Parsons will face one count of intentionally causing or attempting to cause damage to a protected computer in connection with the release of W32.Blaster-B, a variant of the original W32.Blaster-A worm.
That variant appeared on August 14, three days after Blaster-A first appeared, and was nearly identical to the original blaster worm. However, Blaster-B used a different file name, teekids.exe, as opposed to msblast.exe, according to antivirus company Sophos PLC.
Teekid was also an online handle used by Parsons, according to the complaint, which was filed in the Western District of Washington in Seattle, according to Chutich.
The complaint lays out Parsons’ role in modifying the original Blaster worm and releasing the Blaster-B variant, as well as the process law enforcement used to track the virus back to Parsons.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other law enforcement officials declined to provide more information about the case or the identity of the teenager.
The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office scheduled a press conference for Friday afternoon regarding the worm, according to U.S. Attorney John Hartingh in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington in Seattle.
Further details about the case will be presented then, Hartingh said.
Blaster-A first appeared on August 11 and exploited a widespread vulnerability in Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating system.
The worm takes advantage of a known vulnerability in a Windows component called the DCOM (Distributed Component Object Model) interface, which handles messages sent using the RPC (Remote Procedure Call) protocol.
Vulnerable systems can be compromised without any interaction from a user, which helped Blaster spread quickly on machines running the Windows XP and Windows 2000 operating systems.
At the height of the Blaster outbreak, the worm was credited with shutting down the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration.
Virus experts were surprised that an arrest was pending, citing the difficulty in tracing computer viruses back to their author.
“I think it gets back to how they caught him,” said Chris Wraight, a technology consultant at Sophos. “It wasn’t digital forensics, but the human intelligence. The did it the old fashioned way, with human intelligence.”
However, Wraight was not surprised to learn that the suspect in the Blaster-B case was a teenager.
He and others long maintained that Blaster’s blatant copying of proof-of-concept code for using the RPC vulnerability, known as the DCOM exploit, meant that Blaster was the work of a novice virus writer, rather than a pro.
The alleged modification of that code by Parsons is typical, Wraight said.
“This clearly shows what happens in the virus world — people take and modify other people’s code and try to one up each other. But most of these guys are not too swift and they get caught because of an error,” Wraight said.
While most worm authors are careful to cover their tracks and escape capture, those who are caught face toughened computer crime laws in the U.S. and Europe, he said.
In July, for example, a U.K. court rejected an appeal by 22 year-old Simon Vallor, who was sentenced to two years in prison for writing and releasing three e-mail worms.
In less developed countries, however, there are few laws governing cyber crimes, Wraight said.
The author of one of the most destructive viruses, LoveBug, never faced charges because the Philippines lacked laws on its books to prosecute him, he said.