Melissa was “a colossal mistake” says author

David L. Smith, the author of the Melissa worm, who was sentenced to 20 months in a federal prison yesterday has described the virus as “a colossal mistake”. This is an re-print of Sophos article.

Smith’s defence attorney, Edward Borden, had hoped that no prison sentence would be administered but Judge Joseph Greenaway said the prison term was necessary to deter others from committing similar crimes.

In a statement the virus author told Judge Greenaway how he had made “a colossal mistake” in spreading the virus in March 1999 via a stolen AOL account.

“I cannot take back what I did no matter how much I want to… I didn’t intend nor could I have imagined that I would end up this way. It’s been the worst three years of my life,” said Smith.

Christopher Christie, acting for the prosecution, described virus writing as “a fool’s game”.

“Virus writers seem emboldened by technology and enjoy the thrill of watching the damage they reap. But the case of Mr Smith and his Melissa virus should prove to others that it’s a fool’s game,” said Christie. “Law enforcement can employ technology, too, and track down virus writers and hackers through the electronic fingerprints they invariably leave behind.”

Upon completion of the prison sentence, Smith will serve three years of supervised release, during which time he is forbidden to use computer networks or the internet.

Reports from the United States have claimed that Smith has been assisting the authorities with other undercover computer crime investigations and because of this co-operation he did not receive the maximum sentence of five years imprisonment.

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