Fifty-three percent of business PC users who responded to a web poll said the 18-month prison sentence a man received for unleashing a variant of the Blaster worm was too light.

Conducted by antivirus firm Sophos, the poll surveyed 250 business users about last week's sentencing of Jeffrey Lee Parson, 19, of Hopkins, Minn. In addition to the prison time, Parson was sentenced to 10 months of community service.

Thirty-three percent of poll respondents agreed with the sentence while while 14 percent said it was too severe.

Federal officials said Parson's Blaster variant infected more than 48,000 computers.

Andy Salo, director of product marketing at intrusion prevention provider Tipping Point, a division of 3Com, did not offer an opinion on the justness of Parson's sentence but said strong punishment is needed to deter cybercrime.

"When you tally up the damage from those attacks, it's in the billions of dollars every time," he said. "Unless there are some serious measures in place to punish people for these attacks, there's no reason for them not to continue."

www.sophos.com