A female Belgian virus writer who has been waging a very public and protracted war against Sophos anti-virus expert Graham Cluley has been arrested and charged by the authorities.

Over the past few years 'Gigabyte' has launched a number of viruses, all identified by a strong anti-Cluley theme. One launched a game on infected PCs which challenged readers to answer questions about the man the author had nicknamed 'Clueless'. Another game required infected users to knock Cluley's head off on a modified coconut shy.

However, like many a Western bar brawl, this petty in-fighting threatened to get out of control and draw in innocent bystanders, and Gigabyte made very few friends outside the virus-writing community.

In total, Gigabyte is believed to have released four viruses to date: Quis, Coconut, Sahay and Sharp.

According to press reports, the unnamed Belgian virus writer was arrested by the police in her hometown of Mechelen. She has been charged and released.

The police confiscated five PCs and closed down her website, where she had allegedly previously posted malicious code.

If convicted of a charge of computer data sabotage, Gigabyte faces up to three years in prison and fines of up to €100,000. However, recent court cases involving virus writers and hackers suggest she may well escape with a more lenient sentence than the maximum.

The source of Gigabyte's discontent is comments made by Cluley some years ago when he claimed the majority of virus writers are male. Since then, Gigabyte has been on a mission to prove that females can cause just as much havoc as male virus writers.

Ironically it was that strong streak of the self-publicist in Gigabyte which ultimately led to her undoing. Carole Theriault, a security analyst at Sophos, said: "It is normally incredibly difficult to track down virus writers but when they start coming out and boasting about what they are doing they can often help us to find out where they are."

But perhaps the bitterest irony for the outspoken Cluley in all of this is that he is away on holiday as the news breaks. Never one to shy away from public comment, he will be kicking himself to miss this one.

However, Cluley's colleague Theriault said everybody at Sophos will be hoping for a sentence befitting the serious crime of distributing malicious code - though she said the exact nature of the sentence is for the courts to decide. However, the case for the prosecution would be greatly aided if any companies affected by Gigabyte's creations were to come forward and give the courts an idea of extent of damage done, according to Theriault.

Theriault added: "It's just a shame that [Gigabyte] didn't think to put her brain towards something more useful than virus writing because she's obviously very clever."

And that's a point which Gigabyte may soon have time to ponder on.

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Good artists copy, great artists
steal.

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