The latest virus to infect our inboxes is threatening to become one of the most prolific and destructive the world has seen, says Sophos, the anti-spam and anti-virus specialist.
The ominous sounding MyDoom worm (also known as Novarg, Mimail-R and Shimgapi) is already nipping at the ankles of SoBig.F, the virus that brought the IT industry to its knees in 2003.
Within 24 hours of MyDoom’s appearance, anti-virus organisation, Mi2g announced it to be the 21st worst infection ever. So chances are, if you haven’t already heard of MyDoom, you soon will.
"This has all the characteristics of being the next big one," said Steven Sundermeier, the vice-president of products and services at Central Command, a computer security firm, which reported 3,800 infections within just 45 minutes of initial discovery.
Unlike past mass-mailing worms, which have seduced users into opening attachments by offering sexy pictures or private messages, MyDoom uses a variety of technical-sounding subject lines and attachment names.
If the attached file is launched and the worm activated, the infected computer's hard disk is squatted by the worm whilst it searches out email addresses to send itself to.
It also offers hackers the potential to access your personal computer and data files - a terrifying prospect for large corporations.
Plus, it copies itself to the download directory on PCs for the file-sharing service KaZaA.
The MyDoom attack appears aimed, at least in part, at paralysing the web server of the SCO Group.
Infected computers, or “zombies” are being programmed to launch a Denial of Service (DOS) attack against the company between February 1st and 12th.
While not proven, the company has been the target of several attacks over the last 10 months and it’s generally believed that it may have been targeted due to its ongoing legal battle with Linux.
The company is arguing that Linux contains its copyrighted code. A claim that has angered the Linux community and its supporters.
SCO has responded by offering a $250,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of the virus author.
Fortunately, for Mac users, the worm only affects Microsoft Windows.
However, all Windows users should watch out for e-mails that arrive with "test" or "status" in the subject line.
Just hours before the MyDoom virus began spreading like wildfire across the Internet, Bill Gates, speaking at the ‘Developing Software for the future Microsoft Platform,’ stated that virus writers and hackers are helping Microsoft to develop more secure products and are "good for the maturation of the platform".
"It would be wrong to say an operating system is more secure because nobody is attacking it," said Gates, in a clear dig at OS rivals such as Apple and Linux.
So the advice in the meantime?
Buckle up and sit tight!
MyDoom is programmed to stop spreading on February 12 and until then business users are advised to filter for Windows executables and zip files in their email.
Whilst in the home, it's time to update AV signatures yet again.
Sources: Central Command, Guardian Unlimited, mi2g, New Media Age, Reuters, Sophos, Symantec, The Register, Trend Micro Inc
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