Melissa virus creator jailed for 20 months

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Melissa virus creator jailed for 20 months

The computer programmer who created the Melissa virus has been sentenced to 20 months in jail and fined $5,000 (£3,413) for unleashing the virus that infected thousands of computers worldwide in 1999.

David L Smith, 33, pleaded guilty to charges of computer theft and sending a damaged computer program.

The Melissa virus flooded corporate networks with e-mail messages. It affected a third of all company e-mails in the UK and caused the closure of e-mail systems of government agencies in both the US and UK. In the US it forced some companies, including Intel and Microsoft, to shut down their e-mail servers.

The business cost of Melissa is hard to quantify but in court, Smith and prosecutors agreed that the damages in the case were greater than £55m. Some estimates put the global cost at more than £800m.

The macro virus launched when a user opened an infected Microsoft Word document sent as an e-mail attachment.

The e-mail, usually bearing the name of someone the recipient knew, had a subject line that said: "Here is the document you asked for... don't show anyone else ;-)." When a user opened the attachment the virus was sent to the first 50 names in their address book.


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