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Voter Virus Infects E-mail

September 24, 2001

The new bug, dubbed or Voter Virus, isn't as technically sophisticated as the Nimda worm that struck last week. But security experts note that the new bug is much more harmful — and tempts unsuspecting computer users to inadvertently spread the virus by referring to the recent terrorists attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.

The bug arrives in an e-mail titled, "Peace Between America and Islam" and the body of the message says, "Hi. Is it a war against America or Islam!? Let's vote to live in peace!" But when recipients start the attached file called WTC.EXE, the program will send an e-mail with a copy of the bug to everyone listed in their Microsoft Outlook e-mail program. It will then proceed to delete files from the computer's hard drive.

It is still unknown if this latest virus has any direct connections to the terrorists directly responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks. But most experts believe that the relatively simple nature of the Voter Virus bug points to an individual hoping to capitalize on the news and attention surrounding the recent events.

"We've seen several viruses come out since the Sept. 11 attack that sought to take advantage of the news," says Jeff Schmidt, chief operating officer of Secure Interiors, a network security firm in Columbus, Ohio. "This is a very simple virus that essentially attempts to delete files if it is run and it's nothing that we haven't seen before," he says.

Sharon Ruckman, senior director of security response at Symantec says that since the virus still relies on human intervention to spread, the new Voter Virus is similar in nature to other mass e-mail bugs such as the infamous "I Love You" and "Anna Kournikova" bugs. "Social engineering" rather than technical sophistication is what is helping this virus to spread, says Ruckman.

Most experts believe that very few computers on the Net may have been affected by the new virus since its discovery early on Monday. And anti-virus software makers such as Symantec are already working on fixes that will spot and stop the bug from spreading further.

In the meantime, Ruckman and other experts note that the simplest way to prevent this latest virus from spreading remains the same: Do not open any suspicious e-mails containing unexpected file attachments.

By Paul Eng, Copyright © 2001 ABCNEWS Internet Ventures.


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