TAIPEI, Taiwan -- A Taiwanese computer engineer was arrested on charges he had designed a virus-like Trojan horse that Chinese hackers found and used to attack the island's business and government systems, police said Thursday.

Wang Ping-an, 30, designed "Peep," which earlier this year allowed the attackers to steal information and retain control of infected computer systems, police said.

"He placed his program on popular hackers' Web sites and encouraged people to download it," said Lin Chieh-lung, an official from an Internet crime investigation task force. "He might have wanted only to show off his skills, but he should be aware what harm this could cause."

If convicted on charges of vandalizing public and corporate property, he could face up to five years in prison, police said.

Police said they began a probe months ago after noticing hackers had stolen confidential government data. They then discovered "Peep" was responsible for the theft of data from hundreds of Taiwanese schools, companies and government agencies. The attacks were traced back to mainland China, police said.

In recent years, fears have grown that China might enforce its claim of sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan by shutting down the island's heavily computerized society with a cyber-attack instead of a conventional invasion.

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