Microsoft puts a US$500k bounty on virus writers

5 Nov 2003

Shaken to the core by virus and worm attacks on chinks in the armour of its Windows operating system, Microsoft has joined forces with Interpol, the US Secret Services and the FBI and is offering two bounties worth collectively US$500,000 for information that leads to the arrest of the authors of the MSBlast worm and the SoBig virus.

The software giant is offering two rewards worth US$250,000 each for information about the identity of the cyber criminals. The move by Microsoft marks the first time that a company has offered money for the capture of such individuals.

Both the MSBlast worm and the SoBig virus wreaked havoc on the internet in August and September, costing businesses and individuals across the world millions to repair the damage. MSBlast alone spread to as many as 1.2 million computers, exploiting a vulnerability in Windows systems for which Microsoft had issued a patch earlier.

Despite months of investigation, the FBI has only managed to track down two suspects, a 24-year-old in Romania and a 19-year-old in Seattle.

With little headway in investigations being achieved, observers reckon that the rewards could provoke mutiny in the close-knit hacker community and divert attention away from efforts to add security that may defeat worms and viruses in future.

The Sobig virus and MSBlast worm are understood to have considerably hurt Microsoft’s bottom line and at the same time boost profits at e-security firms.

Microsoft has said that it will foot the entire bill for the two bounties.

By John Kennedy