'Computer virus used as threat'

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The Independent Online
A COMPUTER expert threatened to wipe out a company's pounds 200,000 program with a virus, a court was told yesterday.

Roy Booth, 28, a Newcastle University lecturer, is accused of trying to blackmail a firm after it refused to pay a pounds 400 phone bill.

Newcastle Crown Court was told that Dr Booth was hired by consultants Imec, of Washington, Tyne and Wear, to develop a programme for a company in Phoenix, Arizona. He flew to the US and ran up a hotel phone bill which Imec said it would deduct from his wages. He was told he would be paid pounds 450 instead of the pounds 900 he expected for the job. After deducting the phone bill he was left with pounds 50.

Chris Prince, for the prosecution, said Dr Booth then threatened to destroy the program which took months to develop. When company executives plugged in Dr Booth's computer, a message flashed up which read: 'You owe a certain person a sum of money. Files are being suitably modified so that strange things will begin to happen over a period of time. The sooner you contact me the greater the chance of being able to revive what is left.'

Dr Booth, of Gateshead, denies blackmail. He admitted that he had written the message to 'shake them up' but denied injecting a virus. The trial continues today.