Newest computer headache: 'Cult of the dead cow'
July 10, 1999
SAN FRANCISCO -- Computer experts are warning that the newest problem for computer users is a "malicious" program that can be hard to detect.
Hackers at this weekend's annual Defcon conference in Las Vegas are preparing to release the new program to the Internet, which can let intruders automatically take over Microsoft-powered computers, industry experts and hackers said.
The program, written by the "Cult of The Dead Cow," is not dangerous by itself. But after it is posted on the Internet, hackers can use the program to infiltrate other computer systems when they combine it with other programs in a so-called "Trojan horse" attack.
At the annual Defcon conference, hackers, industry executives and even government officials get together to examine computer security issues.
"It's a malicious piece of software, similar to standard remote control software you might purchase," said Microsoft Corp. anti-virus expert Jason Garms. "It's built to be stealthy and hard to detect."
Users urged to run anti-virus software
The program could be used to steal data and monitor a user from another location. Computer experts said it could take weeks or months to infect other computers. But they did not expect major outbreaks as serious as the Melissa or Chernobyl infections earlier this year.
"It's a little hard to classify how much of a threat it is -- it's really not much of a threat at all, more an attempt to get publicity," said Dan Schrader of Trend Micro, an anti-virus software company.
Mikko Hyponnen, head of anti-virus research at Data Fellows in Espoo, Finland, said the program could be released in the next week or so.
Both virus experts advised users to run anti-virus software from a leading vendor, most of whom will have fixes for the program as soon as it is posted this weekend.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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