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Cornell students jailed briefly, on virus, Trojan horse charges.
Henry Norr. MacWEEK. March 2, 1992.


Ithaca, N.Y. -- It wasn't exactly death row, and it lasted only overnight, but two college students found themselves in Tompkins County Jail here last week, charged with unleashing the latest Mac virus.

David S. Blumenthal and Mark A. Pilgrim, both 19, were arrested on misdemeanor computer-tampering charges related to the release of the MBDF A virus and the Trojan horse program that carried it. Both are sophomores at Cornell University and employees of its information technologies department.

After posting a cash bond of $2,000, the two were released and returned to campus. New York state authorities last week were continuing to investigate the case, and "additional charges are expected to be filed," according to a statement issued by the university.

Federal authorities, however, have decided not to press charges, according to M. Stuart Lynn, Cornell's vice president for information technologies.

The infection, an "implied loader" virus like WDEF, was carried by Tetricycle, Obnoxious Tetris and Ten Tile Puzzle, a trio of games posted Feb. 14 on several on-line software archives in the United States and abroad. Tetricycle, which had a Death Row Software copyright, was a Trojan horse carrying the virus in encrypted form; the other two games were simply infected.

When an infected program is run, MBDF A spreads to the user's System file and applications. It does not directly destroy data but reportedly can cause a variety of problems, including long delays; users who reboot in frustration could find their systems corrupted.

The virus was uncovered when a mathematics professor in Wales who had downloaded the games found that his Claris Corp. applications reported that they had been altered. Claris programs include self-check code designed to alert users in case of infection.

The user reported the problem to John Norstad, author of the freeware Disinfectant program, who in turn alerted other anti-virus developers. Investigation quickly led to the infected games and eventually to Cornell, Blumenthal and Pilgrim. . .

© 1992 Coastal Associates Publishing L.P.



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