A simple malware computer programme, created in just a few hours, that affected millions of people around the world.
The Anna Kournikova computer worm was written by a 20-year-old Dutch programmer called Jan de Wit on February 11, 2001.
It was created to trick email users into opening a message purportedly containing a picture of tennis player Anna Kournikova, but it actually contained a hidden malicious programme. If set off, the programme plunders the address book of the Microsoft Outlook e-mail programme and attempts to send itself to all contacts listed there.
The worm tempts users with the message: "Hi: Check This!", with what appears to be an image file labelled "AnnaKournikova.jpg.vbs". The worm arrives in an email with the subject line "Here you have, ;0)" and an attached file called AnnaKournikova.jpg.vbs. When launched under Microsoft Windows the file does not display a picture of Anna Kournikova but launches a viral Visual Basic Script that forwards itself to everybody in the Microsoft Outlook address book of the victim.
The Anna Kournikova worm was created using a simple and readily available Visual Basic Worm Generator programme developed by an Argentinian programmer called ‘[K]Alamar’. While similar to the ILOVEYOU worm that struck a year earlier in 2000, the Anna Kournikova worm did not corrupt data on the infected computer.
De Wit, who reportedly created the worm in just a few hours, is said to have talked to his parents a few days later when he realised the seriousness of the problem caused by his creation. He then turned himself in to authorities in the town of Sneek located in the northern province of Friesland in the Netherlands.
It is thought that the efforts of another virus writer, David Smith, working undercover for the FBI, led to the identification of de Wit and that the FBI passed the information to the Dutch police. De Wit turned himself in to the police in his hometown Sneek on February 14, 2001, a few days after the worm was released.
Reportedly, the mayor of Sneek, Mayor Sieboldt Hartkamp, subsequently made a tentative job offer to De Wit, quoting his programming skills.
De Wit was tried in Leeuwarden and was charged with spreading data into a computer network with the intention of causing damage, a crime that carried a maximum sentence of four years in prison and a fine of 100,000 guilders (US$41,300).
The lawyers for Jan de Wit called for the dismissal of charges against him, arguing that the worm caused minimal damage. The FBI submitted evidence to the Dutch court and suggested that $166,000 in damages was caused by the worm. De Wit admitted he created the worm using a worm creation toolkit but told the court when he posted the virus to a newsgroup he did it "without thinking and without overseeing the consequences". He denied any intent to cause damage. De Wit was sentenced to 150 hours community service or 75 days in jail.