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11/5/2003
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$250,000 Bounty To Nail Blaster, Sobig Authors

Microsoft has created a $5 million reward fund for information leading to the capture of those responsible for worm and virus outbreaks.

Those who write, and unleash, Internet worms and viruses had better watch their heads. There's now a bounty on them.

Microsoft, along with representatives from the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service, and Interpol, this morning kicked off an initiative to catch those who release malicious code that costs businesses and governments around the world billions each year in damages.

The company has created a $5 million fund to be used as reward money for information leading to the capture of those responsible for worm and virus outbreaks.

The first rewards, pegged at $250,000 each, are aimed at those responsible for the Blaster worm and the Sobig virus. Both wreaked havoc this summer on information systems worldwide.

Many security professionals were encouraged by the news. "Good for them," says Ken Tyminski, chief information security officer at Prudential Financial Corp. "I think this is a good thing and a good start."

"It's about time," says Pete Lindstrom, research director at Spire Security, "that the Internet miscreants realize that this is not a virtual parlor game. This activity is costing people real money, time, and aggravation."

Aside from encouraging those in the virus-writing community, which is notoriously tight-lipped, to turn in their peers to authorities, Lindstrom hopes the bounty will motivate companies and government agencies to better review and preserve their network and application logs to "participate in the pursuit of the virus writers."

Three people who allegedly authored variants of the Blaster worm have been caught, but the original author still remains at large.

Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith says the creation of the fund is a first step, and that the company welcomes working with other companies as part of the initiative. "This is a long-term priority," Smith says, and if "we need to spend more money, we will spend more money."

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