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By | Dan Goodin 13th February 2007 20:26

Eight nabbed in China for Panda worm

Cute, but was it virulent?

Police in central China's Hubei Province have detained eight men in their 20s alleged to have participated in the spreading of last year's "Panda burning joss stick" virus outbreak.

This is the first time Chinese authorities have made arrests relating to a major virus attack originating from that country, Xinhua News reports.

The attack also went by the name of worm.whboy and the Fujacks worm, but nobody seems to agree just how virulent it was. China's National Computer Virus Emergency Response Center says it was the nastiest piece of malware in at least four months, causing millions of machines to display the dreaded blue-screen-of-death and lose hard drive data. Sophos, on the other hand, reported it was hard for the virus to spread and that "very few" customers reported being infected.

Among those arrested was Li Jun, a 25-year-old hacker from Wuhan, in Central China's Hubei Province. He stands accused of writing the Panda burning joss virus, which is so named because it causes exe files to morph into images of an adorable panda holding three sticks of incense. Li told police he programmed the virus in October, and pocketed about $13,000 by selling it to more than 120 people. He was also accused of writing three other viruses.

Five other suspects are accused of spreading various viruses including the Panda worm. They're also charged with making illegal profits by stealing highly profitable account details of computer games and instant messaging programs.

The arrests come as Chinese authorities try to shed their country's image as a safe haven for spammers, copyright scofflaws and cyber crooks. In August, a firm from China's south-eastern city of Shenzen was fined about $630 for sending junk mail. Police agencies in more than 10 Chinese regions began investigating the virus in mid January. ®

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