Race to stop SoBig virus next move
LONDON, England (CNN) -- Computer security experts have been trying to locate about 20 computers that could have been targeted by the SoBig.F virus to wreak further havoc.
As companies worldwide ramped up their protection systems Friday and home users downloaded anti-virus software, the hunt was on for a small number of infected machines that could have been chosen by the virus to bombard the Internet with more data.
The identities of the 20 are not known and it is not clear why they have been targeted.
SoBig.F -- the sixth strain of the same virus -- is the fastest spreading virus ever, hitting hundreds of thousands of computers. (Full story)
It arrives in e-mail attachments with subject headers, such as: Your details, Thank you!, Re: Thank you!, Re: Details, Re: Re: My details, Re: Approved, Re: Your application, Re: Wicked screensaver or Re: That movie.
The body of the message is short and usually contains either "See the attached file for details" or "Please see the attached file for details."
Once the attachment is opened, the virus creates a security hole in the computer, allowing someone else to use it to send on many more e-mails.
By Thursday, one in 17 e-mails contained SoBig.F worldwide. As systems have become clogged with data, corporate victims include Air Canada and defense giant Lockheed Martin.
On Friday, anti-virus experts were trying to predict its next move. Some feared it could unleash a mystery program across infected machines.
These computers would act as "master servers," receiving instructions from the author of the virus unless they were switched off.
"We don't know what that program is. It could mean a smiley faces dances across your screen or it could be something massive," Carole Theriault of Sophos Anti-Virus told Reuters.
But Paul Wood of Internet security company MessageLabs said the author of the virus might choose to hold off causing further damage, fearing that the massive spread of the virus increases the chance of being caught.
"On this occasion the writer of the virus has probably been too successful for his own good," Wood told CNN.
He added the culprit could be using the virus to spread spam -- mass marketing e-mail. (Full story)
Home computer users are advised to regularly scan their machines with anti-virus software.
If you have been infected, you may receive unfamiliar pop-up prompts or your machine might slow down. If in doubt, contact an anti-virus company or the Internet service provider.