6 November 2003 Microsoft has launched a $5 million initiative to catch the authors of the world’s most virulent computer viruses.
The software giant is initially dipping into the $5 million fund to create two separate $250,000 rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the people responsible for the MSBlast and Sobig viruses, which infected millions of Windows-based computers around the world.
The Anti-Virus Reward Program, thought to be the first initiative of its kind in the IT industry, was launched yesterday in Washington. Executives from Microsoft were joined at the launch by officials from the FBI, the US Secret Service and Interpol.
Hemanshu Nigam, a Microsoft lawyer, said: “When someone illegally distributes malicious code, it is not a game. It is a serious crime that has serious consequences.”
The initiative will only tackle the most serious viruses to affect Microsoft systems. “We as a company feel it is one of our responsibilities to take the lead in our industry,” he said.
Using sophisticated web-based technologies as a means of tracking virus writers had often failed to uncover the criminals, he said. More traditional methods, such as the offer of cash rewards, would be needed.
IT security experts are sceptical about how effective the initiative will be. Hackers tend to stick together and support one another, they say.
But Peter Nevitt, director of information systems at Interpol, is confident of success. “We do anticipate it will register with a lot of people around the world that suddenly the industry’s serious,” he said.