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Dutch police on Wednesday arrested the hacker known as ”OnTheFly,” a 20-year-old man who claims he wrote a computer virus that backed up e-mail systems worldwide by purporting to offer a photograph of tennis star Anna Kournikova. Authorities charged him with damaging private property and computer programs, and sent the man home with his parents, saying the offense didn’t warrant holding him. A prosecutor will decide later whether to seek a jail sentence or a fine. ”The offenses with which he has been charged aren’t enough to hold him,” said police spokesman Robert Rambonnet, adding that they carry up to a four-year sentence. The man’s name was withheld under Dutch privacy regulations, but he was identified as a resident of the small town of Sneek, 60 miles northeast of Amsterdam. ”It’s up to the public prosecutors whether and for what he should be punished,” said Peter Boomsma, the police spokesman in Sneek. A district court was expected to hear the case in a few weeks. Boomsma said the man was released on his own recognizance; it is ordinary practice in the Netherlands to let people go until trial. The discovery of the apparent hacker in the Netherlands harked back to the 1980s when this country gained a reputation as a virtual transit point for hackers trying to break into U.S. government computer systems. In 1999, the national police set up a special unit of dozens of cyber detectives, but they were apparently clueless that a Dutchman was to blame for the most widespread Internet bug in nearly a year. In a letter posted on the Internet on Tuesday admitting responsibility, the computer buff said he copied ”the worm” from a program he found on the Internet, because ”I don’t know any programming languages.” A police statement indicated the suspect had altered the bug, but didn’t realize how much havoc he would create when he sent it scurrying around the world Sunday, feeding off a computer’s address book to spread from one victim to the next. ”When he realized what the virus was doing he agreed with his parents to report to the police,” the police statement said. The Anna Kournikova virus backed up e-mail systems in millions of computers from Australia to the United States. A Finnish Internet company, F-Secure Corp., claimed its Swedish subsidiary tracked down the Dutchman’s identity and passed the information to the FBI. But the man apparently surrendered in the meantime. F-Secure Corp. said the Swedish company, Atremo, traced him through the Internet’s newsgroups and web forums, identifying him through a greeting that was the clue to his path. The letter posted by the suspect, identifying himself as OnTheFly, admitted spreading the virus as a warning to Internet users to tighten security. ”I admit writing the virus,” said the posting. ”I never wanted to harm the people (who) open the attachment. But after all it’s their own fault they got infected.” The virus arrived as an e-mail attachment named ”AnnaKournikova.jpg.vbs” and carried the message ”Hi: Check This!” It promised to deliver a picture of the teen-age tennis star, but does not actually include a photo. He said he named it for the Russian player because ”I am a big fan of her. She deserves some attention, doesn’t she?” Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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