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Microsoft offers bounty for virus writers

Microsoft are toughening up internet security with a joint US$5 million dollar programme to fight cyber crime that includes a bounty on the respective heads of the 'MSBlaster' and 'So.Big' virus writers.

Microsoft together with the FBI, American Secret Service and Interpol are toughening up internet security with a US$5 million dollar programme to fight cyber crime that includes a bounty on the respective heads of the MSBlaster and So.Big virus writers.

This isn't a case of dead or alive though. The high profile partnership between the US private sector, law enforcement and intergovernmental agencies is looking to hunt down, capture and prosecute the hackers and virus writers.

"Every part of the internet community suffers from the criminal act of releasing viruses and malicious code. These are not just internet crimes or cyber crimes but real crimes that disrupt the lives of real people," says Brad Smith, senior vice president and general counsel at Microsoft. "These are the saboteurs of cyberspace, and they're hiding behind their computer screens. The purpose is to encourage people to come forward and reveal the identities of the perpetrators, and it will help deter the commission of these crimes in the future."

Microsoft will offer two rewards from the US$5 million fund, each for US$250,000. One is for assistance in capturing those responsible for spreading the MSBlaster and the other for the So.Big worms. The rest of the fund will go to help federal and international law enforcement agencies nail hackers, cyber terrorists and cyber criminals.

Microsoft is prepared to dig even deeper into its pockets to haul in the suspects, as Smith explains. "We'll address them on a case-by-case basis. It's a first step, and a big enough step to have an impact. If we need to spend more money, we'll spend more money. It's a priority."

To date, law enforcement agencies have suspects in three of the six MSBlaster incidents, Smith said. However, neither he nor representatives from the law enforcement agencies comment on the status of three suspected cyber criminals who were picked up last summer for allegedly spreading variants of the MSBlaster virus.

Whether the effects of the bounty leads to arrests, or act as a deterrent to would-be virus writers remains to be seen, but if one thing is for certain the net is closing in on the cyber criminals.

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