A $5m reward fund has been set up by Microsoft to help track down people who unleash damaging computer viruses.
Help find evidence of virus creation and get a cash reward
The first rewards on offer will give payments of $250,000 to anyone with information about the creators of the MSBlast or Sobig viruses.
Both these viruses struck earlier this year and wrought havoc on home and business internet users.
The fund is backed by the FBI, US Secret Service and Interpol who will act on any leads the rewards generate.
Microsoft has set up the Anti-Virus Reward Program in an attempt to improve the arrest records of law enforcement agencies charged with tracking down virus writers.
Despite the fact that there are thousands of viruses in circulation, a small fraction of those that write them have been caught, arrested and convicted.
Microsoft hopes that the offer of cash will loosen the lips of anyone with information.
One American youth has been charged in connection with a variant of the MSBlast worm but the originator of that malicious program has yet to be found.
The MSBlast worm struck in late summer and was designed to recruit PCs to launch an attack on Microsoft's Windows Update site.
The authors of the Sobig virus are also being sought. That program is currently in its sixth incarnation and is thought to be the work of a guerrilla spamming outfit that plans to use it to spread their unwanted e-mail messages.
The 'F' version of Sobig, which struck in August, was one of the fastest spreading viruses ever.
Mail filtering firm MessageLabs stopped more than 1m copies of Sobig F when the virus was at its most ubiquitous.
Microsoft said that the cash rewards will be available to people from any country because everyone has suffered as viruses like these have spread.
"Malicious worms and viruses are criminal attacks on everyone who uses the internet," said Microsoft spokesman Brad Smith.
Those who release viruses on the internet are the saboteurs of cyberspace," he said, "and Microsoft wants to help the authorities catch them."
Anyone with information about the writers of damaging viruses is urged to get in touch with the law enforcement agencies backing the reward program.
The cash will only be handed over if the information provided results in someone being arrested and convicted for creating the viruses.