January 28, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 65  

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Insidious virus spreading

By Christopher Smeenk
Gazette Staff

Promiscuous Western students were running scared Monday afternoon as campus was attacked by a world-travelling virus. In this case, however, the virus was transmitted through electronic means, not sexual impropriety.

The “Mydoom” or “mimail” virus first began circulating at a high volume in North America around 4 p.m. on Monday, said Ellen Smout, a spokesperson with information and technology services at Western.

By 5:15 p.m., Western e-mail services had to shut down their server to battle the self-perpetuating virus, said Vince Lombardi at the ITS help desk on campus. “We were getting hit so hard we had trouble flushing out the system.”

He described the virus as “a mass mailing worm” that goes through an infected computer’s address book and sends itself to all e-mail accounts listed. Users should be wary of any messages contain “hi,”, “hello,” “test,” “returned mail” or “system report” in the subject line, Lombardi said, adding the virus may also travel through Kazaa or other peer-to-peer file sharing programs.

“Because they are so [innocuous] and tempting, people click on the attachment,” Smout said, adding the moment the attachment is opened, the computer becomes infected. As a general safeguard, she advised against opening any attachment from an unknown source.

“All the major anti-virus companies have released an updated patch within the last 24 hours,” Smout said, adding home users should update their virus protection software regularly.

Part of the motivation for the virus was aimed at crashing the website sco.com, confirmed Michael Sweeny, public relations director for Trend Micro, the authors of the anti-virus software used at Western.

The sco.com site has recently been involved in a number of intellectual property lawsuits against Linux users, Smout said.

The virus does not pose a significant threat to a user’s hard drive, Lombardi explained. “It just bogs down e-mail services and machines because of how quickly it propagates.

“There doesn’t seem to be a real rhyme or reason for writing viruses,” he added. “These are usually young, ambitious people making their mark by defacing the Internet with digital graffiti.”



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