The theft of an ultra-secret computer code used to design Apple Computer Inc.'s Macintosh may be investigated by federal authorities as well as the Santa Clara County district attorney's office, it was reported this week.

The San Francisco Examiner quoted an unidentified source close to Apple as saying federal officials had joined the probe, but Apple spokeswoman Carleen LeVasseur confirmed only that local prosecutors were involved in the case."Any details regarding the investigation are confidential until we have identified an individual," she said.

Floppy disks with the code, which is supposed to be restricted to a small number of Apple employees, have been sent to various people along with a letter signed by the "New Prometheus League."

The name stems from the Greek Titan who stole fire from heaven and gave it to man. Prometheus was later chained and tortured by Zeus for the theft.

Apple officials have said the code is the basis of the company's "intellectual property," and they will seek to have the pirates prosecuted.