Suspect admits creating Melissa virus

The man arrested in connection with the Melissa virus has admitted to creating the virus, which proliferated quickly throughout computer systems in March and forced some companies to shut down their e-mail systems.

David L. Smith, 30, admitted to investigators that he created the virus, and his admission was included in documents submitted in court, according to Paul Loriquet, a spokesman for the New Jersey Attorney General's office. Smith lives in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Smith was arrested in April and charged with felony counts including interruption of public communications, theft of computer services and damage or wrongful access to computer services. He was released on US$100,000 bail and faces $480,000 in fines and 40 years in prison if convicted.

Smith has pleaded not guilty to the charges. His case is expected to be considered by a state grand jury, which would decide whether to indict him, Loriquet said.

"We expect some kind of resolution in September," said Loriquet, who declined to say whether a plea bargain is an option.

The virus was spread through a Microsoft Word document with a macro virus attached to it, and Microsoft Exchange servers running Microsoft Outlook were vulnerable. The e-mail, usually bearing the name of someone the recipient knew, had a subject line that said, "Here is the document you asked for ... don't show anyone else ; - )." When a user opened the attachment the virus was then sent to the first 50 names in the user's address book.

While considered more of a nuisance than malicious, the virus spread so quickly within one day that it forced the shut-down of e-mail systems at companies including Microsoft and Lucent Technologies. Agencies tracking it estimated that tens of thousands of users were affected.

Smith's attorney Ed Borden did not return a call seeking comment.

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