That's no e-mail error?it's a virus

A fast-moving e-mail virus that appears in in-boxes as a transmission error continues to spread across the Internet.

The virus, which has been called MyDoom or Novarg, shows up in e-mail in-boxes under a variety of subject lines, including "Error," "Mail Delivery System," "Test" or "Mail Transaction Failed."

Vince Gullotto, vice president of security software at Santa Clara, Calif.-based Network Associates Inc., said the new virus was classified as a "high-outbreak" risk.

According to the Network Associates Web site, the offending e-mail includes an executable file and one of several messages, including:

  • "The message cannot be represented in 7-bit ASCII encoding and has been sent as a binary attachment."

  • "The message contains Unicode characters and has been sent as a binary attachment."

  • "Mail transaction failed. Partial message is available."

  • Once the virus infects a Windows-operated PC, it installs a program that allows the computer to be controlled remotely. According to Network Associates, infected PCs will be used to launch a denial of service attack against the Web site of SCO Group starting Feb. 1.

    According to antivirus software maker Symantec Corp., Cupertino, Calif., the virus is programmed to stop spreading on February 12.

    Salt Lake City-based SCO Group has angered the Linux community by filing lawsuits against IBM Corp. and Novell Inc. claiming their versions of Linux illegally incorporated source code from the Unix operating system, which SCO Group controls. The company also sent letters to members of Congress outlining the dangers of open-source software, such as Linux.

    As of this morning, SCO Group's Web site was inaccessible.

    Experts say the MyDoom/Novarg epidemic may end up bigger than the Sobig.F virus outbreak last August.

    Antivirus companies such as Network Associates and Symantec have posted virus updates and removal instructions on their Web sites. Symantec says users of its antivirus software products that support worm blocking should be able to detect the infection before it spreads.

    Other companies are pointing to the new virus as an example of why enterprises need more proactive policies for keeping infections off their networks. London-based GFI Software Ltd. said its MailSecurity gateway products can catch viruses like MyDoom/Novarg before traditional antivirus tools can catch up to the threat.

    "If a vendor takes a couple of hours to issue an update against a new virus, this is often a couple of hours too late. By then, the damage is done. All it takes is for one machine on a network to be infected," said David Vella, GFI MailSecurity product manager. "Organizations need to take a proactive approach to protecting themselves and should install gateway-level protection against one-off and unknown email threats and Trojans, as well as standard virus scanning software."

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