The German teen-ager who wrote the Sasser Internet worm was convicted of computer sabotage on Friday and given a suspended jail sentence of one year and nine months.
A court in the northwestern German town of Verden said Sven Jaschan, 19, concocted his plans over a long period and worked with "mischievous delight" to create new, better and faster versions of the worm, which spread over the Microsoft Windows operating system in May 2004. "His goal was to improve the computer worm he programmed, especially increasing the speed with which it spread and thus to maximize the damage he intended to cause," the court said.
"He was in competition with others and caused immense, incalculable damage."
Jaschan had confessed to creating the worm, which knocked out an estimated one million computers in homes and businesses.
Sasser victims ranged from the British Coastguard to the European Commission, Goldman Sachs and Australia's Westpac Bank. Some security firms called it the most destructive worm ever.
Described by authorities as a "computer freak," he pleaded guilty to charges of data manipulation, computer sabotage and interfering with public services.
However, because he was 17 when the crimes were committed, Jaschan was tried in a youth court and his punishment was far short of the maximum sentence of five years in jail for computer sabotage under German law.
The court said that, while Jaschan had acted with "great intensity and shown enormous criminal energy," he had not done so for material gain. It noted he had been in a "difficult social situation."
NEED FOR RECOGNITION "He was very introverted and extremely shy at that time and was not integrated into his school class, which meant he had a strong need for recognition which he could achieve through his special abilities as a programmer," the court said.
"In addition, the court took into account the behavior of the accused after the act. He showed it was possible for him to complete a decent education with obvious success and achieve stable relationships."
Prosecutors had called for a two-year suspended sentence and 200 hours of community service. The defense argued for a maximum sentence of one year's probation.
Court spokeswoman Katharina Kruetzfeldt said Jaschan had also been ordered to do 30 hours' community service.
Microsoft, which offered a $250,000 reward for information leading to Jaschan's arrest, told Reuters the case showed it was ready to move quickly to identify and hold responsible the authors of damaging computer worms and viruses.
"Microsoft Corp. commends German law enforcement for its work on the arrest and conviction of the Sasser worm author," the company added.