Philippines says it lacks law to arrest virus suspect

CIOL Bureau
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MANILA: The Philippines has yet to arrest the suspected creator of the "Love Bug" computer virus because it lacks laws that deal with computer crime, a senior police officer said on Monday. "We have no laws on this," National Bureau of Investigation chief Federico Opinion told reporters. "We have to research."

Newspapers also said this was the first time the Bureau had investigated a case of computer crime and that a lack of experience may have hamstrung detectives. Opinion said the Bureau was trying to persuade a judge to issue a warrant to search the house of the suspect, who is believed to be a woman living in a Manila suburb. "It's not that have to convince the judge. We are collating evidence," he said.

The "Love Bug", the most virulent computer virus ever created, penetrated millions of computers last week, including those of the Pentagon, the CIA and the British parliament.

It was quickly traced back to the Philippines and the Bureau began surveillance of the suspect, a young computer student from a middle class family, on Saturday.

Could have erased evidence

Detectives had earlier said the suspect was a 23-year-old man, while a Bureau official also said it was possible the current suspect might not be responsible for the computer attack.

"It was only (her) computer used to launch the virus that was traced but anybody could use that computer," the official said.

"The user here is invisible, it could be anybody. The difference is that the person we have identified is the registered owner of that computer."

The official also said that given the massive international publicity over the case the suspect could by now have erased evidence from the computer.

The Washington Post newspaper said the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had traced the virus to the Philippines through a fairly obvious electronic trail and was ready to seize computers used in the attack once it got permission.

FBI agents were assisting the Philippines in the investigation, said Nelson Bartolome, head of the NBI's anti-fraud and computer crimes division.

"They are providing us with technical expertise on computers. They will help analyse the seized evidence, if ever we get it," Bartolome told Reuters.

In Sweden, a computer expert said on Saturday he believed an 18-year-old German exchange student in Australia was responsible for the virus. Australian Federal Police (AFP) said on Sunday they had been given no firm evidence to back up the allegation.

(C) Reuters Limited 2000.