Insidious virus spreading
By Christopher Smeenk
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
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.”