Alleged computer virus writer arrested

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A MAN police believe may be the 'black baron', responsible for three of the most dangerous computer viruses encountered, has been arrested, writes Susan Watts.

The man has been released on bail until November and Scotland Yard's computer crime unit is appealing for people who have suffered an attack to come forward. Officers of the Devon and Cornwall fraud squad obtained search warrants in Plymouth which led to the arrest. The police have yet to charge the man, but if a prosecution goes ahead he would be the first person accused of being a virus writer to come before a British court.

Detective Sergeant Simon Janes said he believed many incidents had gone unreported. 'I would not rule out the possibility of further arrests,' he said.

The viruses, including Smeg. Pathogen and Smeg. Queeg, based on expressions from the BBC Televison series Red Dwarf, mutate as they spread from computer to computer, making detection more difficult.

Smeg. Pathogen writes rubbish over any data on the computer's hard disk and displays a lengthy message, part of which reads: 'Smoke me a kipper, I'll be back for breakfast . . . Unfortunately some of you (sic) data won't]'

Scotland Yard Computer Crime Unit, 071 230 1177.