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Wall Steet Journal: 'Blackworm' Virus Looms (In the News)

Feb. 2, 2006

'Blackworm' Virus Looms As Menace to PC Files

Web Experts Say Program Has Hit 300,000 Terminals And Might Launch on Feb. 3



January 27, 2006; Page B3

A potentially destructive computer virus, called "blackworm," is rapidly spreading across the Internet and has already infected more than 300,000 computers in several countries, according to Internet security experts.

The virus -- which reaches computers by email and for now only nests on them -- is expected to be triggered Feb. 3, when experts think it will begin destroying data on infected computers.

Rather than clogging up email systems like many viruses, the blackworm will obliterate files, including Microsoft Word documents, Excel spread sheets, Power Point presentations as well as files in PDF and ZIP formats, among others, the experts said.

While there have been much larger viruses in the past, the blackworm is especially destructive, said Randal Vaughn, a professor of information systems at Baylor University and a member of a loose group of Internet "civil defense" volunteers.

In the past couple of days, Prof. Vaughn said he has contacted 2,050 Internet service providers around the world that have customers infected with the virus. He has an additional 3,000 left to contact, he said.

Some U.S. Internet service providers said they are aware of the virus but believe their antivirus software will block it. "Our customers have been protected from this virus," said a spokeswoman from Comcast Corp., the cable-television and Internet service company. Representatives from Verizon Communications Inc., BellSouth Corp., and AT&T Inc. said they expect their protection to be sufficient.

This virus, however, disables most antivirus software, Internet experts said. They recommend users update antivirus software regularly, and to not open suspicious attachments, even from known senders.

Though the virus has appeared in various forms, some of its common subject headers are: hot movie, miss lebanon 2006 and dsc 00465.jpeg. It also promises sexually explicit photographs with a Kama Sutra theme. Users can detect if their computers are infected if an unknown ZIP file suddenly appears on their desktop, or if they are unable to update their antivirus software, since the virus disables that software.

As the virus spreads, it checks in with a Web site that contains a "counter," displaying the total number of infected computers, which shows about two million computers have been hit. However, experts say the number is likely distorted and closer to around 300,000.

Write to Christopher Rhoads at christopher.rhoads@wsj.com1

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