SEATTLE — A federal judge sentenced a teenager to a year and a half of prison Friday for releasing a variant of the Blaster worm that was used to attack more than 48,000 computers.
Jeffrey Lee Parson, 19, appeared in U.S. District Court in Seattle, where he was also ordered to perform community service, pay restitution and be placed under supervision for three years following the sentence.
“If you use the internet to harm people, it will be investigated and you will be punished,” Jeff Sullivan, chief of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s office in Seattle, told reporters.
U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman, however, did not give the Minnesota teen the maximum 37-month sentence, saying Parson wrote malicious software and used it to attack other computers partly because of neglectful upbringing and supervision.
The internet “has created a dark hole, a dungeon if you will, for people who have mental illnesses or people who are lonely,” U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman said. “I didn’t see any parent standing there saying, ‘It’s not a healthy thing to lock yourself in a room and create your own reality.’”
Defense attorneys said that Parson feared leaving the house and that his parents provided little support.
Parson created a variant of the internet worm called Blaster. It attacked a Microsoft Windows update website as well as personal computers. Blaster and its variants have crippled networks worldwide.
Parson’s lawyers said that since his arrest, he has made a Seattle school district video warning teens of the dangers of internet vandalism.
Parson apologized to the court and to Microsoft, saying, “I know I’ve made a huge mistake and I hurt a lot of people and I feel terrible.”
Parson, who was brought in from his home in Hopkins, Minnesota, pleaded guilty to creating a variant of the worm, which infected computers in mid-2003 and targeted computers at Microsoft.
Parson said he created his “B” or “teekids” variant of the Blaster worm and used it to access 50 computers, which he then used to launch a broader attack on more than 48,000 computers.
Attorneys from Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington, a Seattle suburb, said that damages could easily amount to more than $1 million.
A hearing for the amount of restitution to be paid to Microsoft and others affected by Parson’s Blaster variant will be held in February.
Blaster and its variants are self-replicating internet worms that bore through a security hole in Windows, Microsoft’s operating system that is found on more than 90 percent of the world’s personal computers.