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New My Doom virus infects BU e-mails

Nov. 10, 2004

By PETER ANZOLLITTO, staff writer

A new e-mail virus that began infecting computers in the Baylor community Monday afternoon now is under control.

The "My Doom" virus first struck around 2:30 p.m. Monday and new incoming e-mails were arriving once every 15 to 20 minutes. By 5 p.m., five to 10 were arriving every second.

"The virus comes in the form of an e-mail with a link to a Web page," Tommy Roberson, manager of information technology security and server operation, said. "It infects your computer and then sends the same e-mail to everyone in your address book."

Due to the "My Doom" virus's nature and design, it spreads quickly. At Baylor, there were 12 incoming e-mail viruses between 2:30 p.m. and 5:20 p.m. Monday. At 5:30 p.m., Baylor began blocking the e-mails. Between 5:30 p.m. Monday and 3 p.m. Tuesday over 6,200 incoming e-mails were blocked. The initial infected users were taken off the Baylor network temporarily.

"What made this virus unique was that it exploited a vulnerability in Internet Explorer and looked like a legitimate e-mail," Bob Hartland, director of IT servers and networks, said.

The e-mail appeared to be sent from Ebay, Paypal or a banking institution and claimed the recipient's credit card had been charged. It also included a link, which when clicked would infect the user's computer, to "verify" information. The virus does no damage to PCs and did no damage to the Baylor system.

"A virus like this can cause a lot of extra traffic and is a nuisance, but doesn't really have a big impact," Hartman said.

However, this does not mean students should allow themselves to be caught off-guard.

"It appears that the virus is doing nothing to destroy data, but it could slow down your computer and there may be more components to it that we have yet to discover," Roberson said.

"The danger is that the e-mail traffic could potentially get so large that the server buckles and e-mails are either slowed or stopped all-together," Roberson said.

Because Baylor caught the problem quickly, the fraudulent e-mails were prevented from spreading. According to an e-mail sent by ITS yesterday morning Baylor has experienced an increase in e-mail viruses and spam e-mails this semester.

Roberson attributes this increase in viruses to the ease with which they can be created and recent improvements in the quality of imposter e-mails and offers some simple advice.

"You can do two things to protect yourself from viruses like this: be careful when opening e-mails you were not expecting and do not give out any personal information over e-mail ,even if it looks like a company you recognize," Roberson said. "Businesses typically do not ask personal questions over e-mail."