Melissa virus creator jailed for 20 months


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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