Suspect Charged in Connection to MS Windows Leak

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The U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan said it arrested a Meriden, Conn., man on charges of trying to sell Microsoft's Windows NT and 2000 source code after it was leaked onto the Internet earlier this year.

Officials said they charged William Genovese, 27, with one count of unlawfully distributing a trade secret. His site, illmob.org, contains dozens of questionable code snippets, including software Trojans and other cracker tools.

Herbert Hadad, a spokesman with the U.S. Attorney's Office, the next step in the process is whether Genovese is indicted on the charges.

Microsoft officials were not available for comment.

According to the complaint, Microsoft hired a private investigator with an unnamed online security firm to pay for and download the source code from Genovese's Web site. An undercover FBI agent did the same in July.

If convicted, Genovese could, under the Economic Espionage Act, spend 10 years in prison and pay $250,000 in fines, though the complaint states Microsoft could get up to twice the gross loss resulting from the offense.

The source code for the popular operating system was originally discovered through Internet channels in February, when tip sheet site NeoWin reported the code was available on the Internet.

The news touched off a firestorm of downloads from curious developers and end-users alike, appearing on BitTorrent forums and IRC channels around the world. At the time, Microsoft officials confirmed the report and said they were working with law enforcement agencies to discover the source of the leak.

One of the early culprits fingered for the leak was a software developer called Mainsoft, according to a BetaNews.com report, which found MainWin references throughout the source code.

It was originally thought the code would unleash a new wave of zero day attacks on the Windows NT and 2000 platforms, since malware writers would have access to the underlying code behind the systems. But security experts downplayed the effect of the leak.

Worldwide dissemination of the code even prompted analysts to comment that the leak gave users and administrators more reason to migrate to Windows XP to avoid any serious vulnerability, while others even suggested the leak was a good way for Microsoft to get free advice from developers on any weaknesses in the code.

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