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New Internet worm makes some files a 'goner'

By Daniel Sieberg
CNN Sci-Tech

(CNN) -- Antivirus companies warned people Tuesday about a rapidly spreading new e-mail worm that is capable of deleting certain computer programs.

The mass-mailing Internet worm goes by the name "Goner" and is distinguishable by its subject line (Hi) and the body of the message, which promises a screensaver. The attachment is called "Goner.scr."

Written in Visual Basic, Goner spreads through Microsoft's Outlook Address Book and even tries to send itself out through online chat programs ICQ and IRC.

According to antivirus company F-Secure, Goner also tries to delete several executable (.exe) or program files and shows a fake error box to disguise itself. The files it tries to delete are mostly antivirus programs and personal firewalls, making it doubly malicious.

The body of the message reads:

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!

As of Tuesday afternoon, antivirus firm MessageLabs said Goner seemed to be gathering steam and spreading at a "fast" pace. Infections have been reported from around the world during the past 24 hours.

"Goner is one of the most incredibly fast-moving and potentially dangerous e-mail viruses we've seen," said Mark Sunner, chief technology officer of MessageLabs. "We've seen most cases occur in France, the UK and the United States, in that order."

Denial-of-service potential

"Goner" is a mass-mailing Internet worm that uses a fake error box to disguise itself.  

Antivirus firms Trend Micro and McAfee both ranked Goner as a "high" threat, while experts at Symantec rated it as a "medium," with the likelihood of raising it later.

"It does look like it could be a big one, but it's hard to tell at this point," said Kevin Haley, product manager for Symantec's security response team.

"It's really taken off," said Michael Callahan, director of marketing for McAfee. "And it's not only taken off, but it also has potential to take down systems."

It was unclear exactly how many users worldwide have been affected, or whether the circulation of Goner would begin to abate as more people and companies became aware of it.

And opinions varied as to how far it would eventually circulate.

Security experts from Computer Associates noted that Goner was not yet on the scale of recent outbreaks like "Badtrans" or "Sircam." However, MessageLabs likened the explosion of Goner to the "Love Bug" virus reported in April 2000.

Regardless, "it does cause alarm that these types of viruses are spreading at all," said Ian Hameroff, business manager at Computer Associates. "It's really the same bag of dirty tricks."

Symantec's Haley added that Goner uses a "blended threat" since in addition to causing damage and sending itself out, it also leaves behind a script that a hacker could use to launch a denial-of-service attack from the infected computer.


• Computer Associates
• MessageLabs
• F-Secure
• McAfee
• Symantec

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