Microsoft has offered a $250,000 reward for information that leads to the capture of the Conficker worm creator.

The Conficker has spread widely in recent months, with as many as 10 million PCs affected since a mass outbreak last month, including several high-profile systems including the UK National Health System and MoD.

The worm, also known as Downadup or Kido, spreads through a hole in Windows systems, exploiting a vulnerability that Microsoft patched in October. The spread of the virus was aided by the growing use of USB flash drives and external network devices.

General Manager of the Trustworthy Computing Group at Microsoft George Stathakopoulos said that the company would not tolerate the release of illegal malware which attacked their customers.

“As part of Microsoft’s ongoing security efforts, we constantly look for ways to use a diverse set of tools and develop methodologies to protect our customers,” said Mr Stathakopoulos. “By combining our expertise with that of the broader community we can expand the boundaries of defence to better protect people worldwide.

“Microsoft’s approach combines technology innovation and effective cross- sector partnerships to help protect people from cybercriminals. We hope these efforts help to contain the threat posed by Conficker, as well as hold those who illegally launch malware accountable.”

Microsoft has previously offered such rewards on two previous occasions. In 2003, the company offered a reward of $500,000 for the conviction of the author of the Blaster and Sobig worms and in May 2004 the software giant paid $250,000 to a group of German students whose classmate, Sven Jaschan, was the author of the Sasser and Netsky worms.

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