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Zotob Virus Writers Jailed in Morocco

Two Moroccan men have been sentenced to prison terms for helping write the Zotob computer virus that attacked major U.S. networks last year, a court official said Wednesday.

Science student Farid Essebar, 19, and his friend Achraf Bahloul, were sentenced Tuesday at the court in Sale, near the capital Rabat, court official Maria Regregui told The Associated Press.

Essebar was sentenced to two years and Bahloul to one year, the official MAP news agency reported. The men's lawyers plan to appeal the ruling, but it was not yet clear when, Regregui said.

The Zotob worm and its variations, first unleashed in August 2005, targeted computers that run Microsoft Corp. operating systems, with Windows 2000 users most seriously affected.

The worm disrupted computer operations at several large news organizations, including The Associated Press, ABC, CNN, and The New York Times; such U.S. companies as heavy-equipment maker Caterpillar Inc.; and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau.

The worm emerged just a week after Microsoft had warned of a security flaw and released a software fix for it. But many computers don't get updated right away, and ones left vulnerable can be accessed remotely through the operating system's "Plug and Play" hardware detection feature. Zotob and its variations can attack a computer without needing to open any software.