The German police have charged an 18-year-old student with creating the Sasser worm.

The authorities in Verden have accused Sven Jaschan of computer sabotage, data manipulation and disruption of public systems when he created the Net worm that crashed hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide.

Informants, seeking a $250,000 reward from Microsoft, tipped off the software giant to Jaschan. He was arrested on 7 May after confessing to German officials that he originally wanted to create a virus, Netsky, to remove two other viruses, MyDoom and Bagle, from infected computers. After developing several versions of Netsky, he created Sasser, according to the officials.

Sasser didn't require users to receive an e-mail message or open a file to be infected. Instead, simplyhaving a vulnerable Windows machine connected to the Internet was sufficient to get infected thanks to a hole in Windows called the Local Security Authority Subsystem Service (LSASS).

On 13 April, Microsoft released a software patch, MS04-011, which plugs the LSASS hole, but many companies and individuals had not installed it in time to prevent the Sasser worm affecting their systems.

The 77-page indictment lists 173 witnesses. Prosecutors said 143 victims had filed charges, claiming damages of €130,000. But because many businesses and individuals seldom report such damages, the actual figure could be in the millions of euros, a spokesman at the Verden prosecutors' office said.

Computer sabotage carries a maxim sentence of five years, according to the spokesman. "But considering that this young person had no previous criminal offenses, a five-year sentence is illusionary," he said. A date for the trial has yet to be set, the spokesman said.