'Mad boffin' jailed over computer virus havoc

PETER VICTOR

A "mad and reclusive boffin" who wreaked havoc on computer systems by spreading on-screen viruses across the world was jailed yesterday for 18 months. Christopher Pile, 26, an unemployed computer programmer, dedicated his lonely life in Plymouth, Devon, to the creation and dissemination of the viruses that caused untold damage. Pile had a world-wide reputation as The Black Baron. One company lost pounds 500,000 because of his activities.

As he was sentenced at Exeter Crown Court yesterday after earlier pleading guilty to 11 offences under the Computer Misuse Act 1990, Judge Jeremy Griggs said damage caused, or potentially to be caused, could run into millions of pounds.

What he designed and released would constitute a threat for the foreseeable future, said the judge. The evidence had confirmed that a "Pandora's Box" had been opened. Not only did Pile create two viruses, but he designed another piece of software called Smeg which made the viruses harder to detect. The encryption engine - Smeg - had been released and could not be reined back.

"I dare say you were looking forward to reading in the computer press about the exploits of the Black Baron," said the judge. "Those who seek to wreak mindless havoc on one of the vital tools of our age cannot expect lenient treatment."

Pile designed the viruses called Pathogen and Queeg, names drawn from the scatalogical science-fiction TV series Red Dwarf, of which Pile was an avid fan. Smeg was also taken from the series.

Self-taught wizard, page 2

Comments