Russian authorities have jailed a hacker who not only created his own malware, but ran two websites distributing more than 4,000 different computer viruses.
Sergey Kazachkov, a Russian science student from Voronezh, was found guilty of making thousands of malware available via two virus-exchange websites. He was also said to have created and spread his own malicious software.
Kazachkov has been given a 2-year suspended sentence, and will have to abide by conditions laid down by the court during a 1-year probation period.
"Kazachkov was playing a dangerous game by running a website that helped spread viruses designed to cause harm to the data of innocent computer users," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "It's excellent news that he has been convicted and the websites shut down, but his punishment is little more than a slap on the wrist. Cyber crime is getting more and more serious and causes horrendous problems for businesses, so a stronger message must go out to those behind these crimes that it won't be tolerated."
Cluley warned users that there are many virus-exchange websites, where hackers can download thousands of malicious code and instructions on how to write new malware.
The Kazachkov conviction is not the first time the Russian authorities have cracked down on those who make viruses available on websites. In November 2004, a member of the international 29A virus-writing gang was found guilty of posting virus source code on underground malware distribution websites.
"Running websites like this is highly irresponsible and in many countries will lead to criminal prosecution," added Cluley. "Anyone engaged in the computer underground should think long and hard about the possible consequences of their actions."
Some headlines in the Russian media have claimed that Sergey Kazachkov has been identified as the author of the infamous Chernobyl virus. However, Sophos points out that this is incorrect and the wrong assumption appears to have been made because Chernobyl was one of the viruses available from Kazachkov's websites. The real creator of the destructive Chernobyl virus (also known as CIH) was Chen Ing-Hau, a Taiwanese student who was detained by the authorities in 2000.