Jeffrey Lee Parson was a high-school senior in suburban Minneapolis in 2003 when he downloaded a copy of the Blaster Internet worm.

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A federal judge gave Jeffrey Lee Parson the minimum sentence of 18 months in prison today for releasing a version of the Blaster computer worm into the Internet in 2003.


U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman could have sentenced Parson to as many as 37 months — the maximum high end of the range agreed to by lawyers on both sides of the case.


Instead, she said she was swayed to the more lenient sentence because of Parson’s history of mental health problems and because his home life “sounds grimmer than many prison camps I’ve visited.”


She also sentenced Parson to three years of supervised release and 100 hours of community service after he is released. In an effort to get the 19-year old on a college track, she said any hours spent attending preparatory classes for the SAT or ACT college tests, and taking those tests, could be deducted from the 100-hour requirement.


“You shook the foundation of the system,” Pechman told Parson in court before doling out the sentence. “Because as we launched ourselves into this new world of technology, we assumed it had the same foundation of bricks and mortar that we find in the real world.”


Parson has shaken everyone’s trust in technology, she said.


In a statement, Parson said: “I am grateful the judge gave a very fair sentence. I feel that the judge understood me. I hope young people can learn from my mistakes, and I am sorry to anyone who got hurt in any way by what I did.”


Parson was a high-school senior in suburban Minneapolis in 2003 when he downloaded a copy of the Blaster Intenret worm. He had already dabbled in computer hacking activities and had launched online attacks against the Web sites of the motion picture and record industries.


He modified the Blaster worm, adding a program that would give him secret access over the Internet to computers that were infected by the worm.


Like the original Blaster, his worm was designed to launch an attack on a Microsoft Web site that housed patches to fix flaws in software. The idea was that if enough computers could be accessed and commanded to flood the Web site, it would collapse under the traffic load.


That didn’t happen because Microsoft knew about the attack and took steps to prepare for it.


Still Microsoft was affected by the attempt, its attorney said.


“The crime really went to the fundamental issue of the trust of computer users in the Internet,” said Nancy Anderson, deputy general counsel at Microsoft.


Lawyers in the case have not come to terms on the amount of restitution that Parson should pay Microsoft. Pechman scheduled a hearing for Feb. 10 to discuss the matter.


Pechman is planning to sign the sentencing paperwork this afternoon. Parson is expected to fly back to Minnesota on his own and report to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. None of his family members attended the hearing.


Kim Peterson: 206-464-2360 or kpeterson@seattletimes.com