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E-mail bug can destroy anti-virus protection

December 11, 2001

A computer virus that is the first to target anti-virus programs on PCs could turn out to be the most destructive since the "love bug" deleted millions of files worldwide in May 2000.

The "goner" virus, which has spread quickly since surfacing late on Tuesday, deletes any software protection it finds on PCs. Its arrival suggests that traditional protection against such attacks – looking for a specific "signature" of a known virus in any file – is out of date.

Instead, users will have to rely either on protection installed before e-mail gets to them, or make the cheaper, but potentially more wrenching, decision to change away from the Microsoft programs typically targeted by virus-writers. Security software companies said people had not learnt the lesson of not opening unexpected files arriving as "attachments" to e-mails.

The virus arrives in an attachment masquerading as a screen saver, with an e-mail subject line of "Hi" and text saying: "How are you? When I saw this screen saver, I immediately thought about you I am in a harry [sic], I promise you will love it!" If the user clicks on the file, it sends itself to everyone in the e-mail address book, tries to close programs and deletes files, including security software. Anyone who receives such an e-mail should delete it immediately.

By Charles Arthur, Technology Editor. Copyright © 2001 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd


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