updated 9/8/2004 5:45:55 PM ET 2004-09-08T21:45:55

A German teenager who created the Sasser worm that disrupted computers around the world in May has been charged with computer sabotage, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Sven Jaschan, 18, was arrested after telling officials his original intention was to create a virus, "Netsky A," that would combat the "Mydoom" and "Bagle" viruses, removing them from infected computers.

He developed several versions of the Netsky virus and, after modifying it, created Sasser, which raced around the world exploiting a flaw in Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system.

Computer sabotage carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

In their indictment, prosecutors in Jaschan's home state of Lower Saxony chose the cases of three German city governments and a public broadcaster whose systems were disrupted.

Sasser caused infected computers to crash and reboot, making it impossible to work on them.

Prosecutors said they have been contacted by 143 plaintiffs with total damage claims of $157,000.

But since many businesses and private citizens never reported any damage claims to authorities, prosecutors believe the actual figure is in the millions.

Authorities who questioned Jaschan said they got the impression his motive was to gain fame as a programmer.

He was caught after informants seeking a reward tipped off Microsoft. He was arrested sitting at his computer at the house of his mother, who runs a computer store in the small northern town of Waffensen.

Prosecutors are also investigating several of Jaschan's friends as suspected accomplices, though none of them have been charged.

No trial date has been set for Jaschan.

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