Four Israeli secondary-school students have admitted to creating the "Goner" e-mail worm, which started spreading rapidly last week.
The youths, aged 15 and 16, were arrested Friday in the northern city of Nahariya, according to Israeli and foreign press reports.
They created the worm as part of a competition with a rival group of hackers, the reports said. If convicted, the youths could face three years to five years in prison.
Hundreds of thousands of computers around the world received the Goner worm as an e-mail attachment disguised as a screensaver. But researchers have said the economic damage caused by the attack is relatively small, partly because antivirus software vendors reacted quickly with virus-definition updates.
If opened, Goner attempts to send itself to all addresses in the address book of Microsoft Corp.'s Outlook and Outlook Express mail programs. It tries to delete security software and can spread via instant messaging programs ICQ and IRC (Internet Relay Chat).