Four teenagers, aged 15 and 16, who created a computer virus in early December which infected computers via the internet worldwide, have been arrested in Israel. The high school students have confessed to creating and spreading the Goner Windows virus. An Israeli law passed in Israel in 1995 mandates sentences of up to five years for the creation and distribution of virus programs.

Like most of the other Windows viruses, the Goner virus exploited weaknesses in Microsoft?s Outlook e-mail program. The message containing the virus had an attachment that looked like a screensaver, but anyone clicking on it was infected with a program that read their address book and mailed itself to all the addresses it found there. The subject of the e-mail read ?Hi,? and recipients, thinking they had received an e-mail from friends or business colleagues, opened the e-mails and became infected themselves.

As well as mailing itself to e-mail contacts, the virus also tried to delete the anti-virus software on the machine it infected. The virus could also spread through instant messaging and internet chat rooms.

Israeli police say the writers of the Goner virus were easy to find because the aliases they used to sign the program were also used to set up and manage accounts on an Israeli net service and a net-based instant messaging system. Despite this, due to the speed and reach of the internet, they still had enough time to infect computers worldwide.

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