updated 6/16/2004 8:35:09 PM ET 2004-06-17T00:35:09

The informant who tipped Microsoft Corp. to the identity of the "Sasser" computer worm's creator last month is among five people under investigation as possible accomplices, prosecutors said Wednesday.

The worm's 18-year-old confessed creator, Sven Jaschan, was arrested May 7 at his home in northern Germany following the tip to Microsoft from an informant seeking a reward . Jaschan, whose worm raced around the world exploiting a flaw in the company's Windows operating system, is free pending charges. (MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)

The week after the arrest, police questioned five people, some of whom said Jaschan had given them the source code for the "Netsky" virus, which he also created.

"The person who gave the tip is among the other five suspects," said Helmut Trentmann, a spokesman for prosecutors in the northern town of Verden. He added that 50 damage claims have been received so far, but gave no details.

Trentmann would not give details on the informant, but the weekly magazine Stern reported that he and Jaschan still go to the same school.

"What am I supposed to do? I'm certainly not going to beat him up," it quoted Jaschan as saying. The teenager said that his aim was to be better than other virus programmers, but not to cause damage.

"I'm afraid that my life is in the trash can -- how am I supposed to pay everything if a lot of claims come?" Jaschan, who hopes to get an apprenticeship in the computer industry, told Stern. "All I can do is apologize to everyone."

Jaschan is being investigated on suspicion of computer sabotage, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Sasser is known as a network worm because it can automatically scan the Internet for computers with the security flaw and send a copy of itself there, causing some computers to continually crash and reboot.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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