"WASHINGTON (AP) - Applying Wild West bounties to modern Internet crimes, Microsoft Corp. set aside $5 million Wednesday to pay large cash rewards to people who help authorities capture and prosecute the creators of damaging computer viruses.
Flanked by federal and international law enforcers, Microsoft executives promised to pay the first rewards of $250,000 each to anyone who helps authorities find and convict the authors of the original ``Blaster'' and ``Sobig'' Internet infections unleashed this year.
The world's largest and wealthiest software company also pledged to continue making its popular Windows operating system software, the most common target of hackers, more resistant to such threats.
``We do believe this will make a difference,'' said Microsoft's general counsel, Brad Smith said. ``We can't afford to have these criminals hide behind their computer screens.''
The Blaster and Sobig programs spread rapidly among hundreds of thousands of computers running Windows, exposing weaknesses in the Microsoft software the company had billed as its most secure ever.
The FBI, Interpol and the U.S. Secret Service said the $5 million pledge was an unprecedented figure for a corporation to set aside for payments in future criminal investigations.
Microsoft urged anyone with information about the two computer infections to contact local offices of the FBI, Secret Service or Interpol, or send tips using the Web sites for Interpol, See Interpol, or the FBI's Internet Fraud and Complaint Center, ."