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Police on Thursday denied reports that a man has been detained in connection with the computer-crippling "Blaster" Internet worm, but confirmed they were investigating a suspect whom they declined to name.

A computer security company reported Wednesday that police had detained a suspect for allegedly creating MsBlast.F, a worm that infected computers of a university in northeastern Romania.

Bucharest-based BitDefender responded to a police request and tracked down the author of MsBlast.F, said company spokesman Mihai Radu.

BitDefender identified Dan Dumitru Ciobanu, a 24-year-old graduate of the Technical University of Iasi, some 250 miles northeast of Bucharest as the alleged author of the modified and milder version of the Blaster worm, which crippled hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide in mid-August.

The Romanian version of the worm was identified Monday.

But Romanian police spokesman Marius Tache denied that authorities had detained a suspect in the case. He said the local organized crime police were investigating a suspect, but he would not say if it was Ciobanu.

Despite repeated calls, police refused to name the suspect, saying the information could endanger their investigation.

Radu said Thursday that police told him they had detained and then released Ciobanu for lack of evidence.

Police appeared to be backing off the investigation, leaving the computer probe in the hands of local officers in Iasi to be aided by an inspector sent from Bucharest, the Romanian capital, Radu said.

On Wednesday, BitDefender had said that police planned to have the company examine a pair of computers seized from Ciobanu.

Last week, Minneapolis high school senior Jeffrey Parson, 18, was charged with letting loose a different variation of the Blaster worm.

Parson faces one count of intentionally causing damage to a protected computer. Conviction could bring a maximum 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

In Romania, releasing a computer virus carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years.
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