Sat, Dec 14, 2002 - Page 10 News List

Beware the feared computer viruses of Christmas-time

By Annabel Lue  /  STAFF REPORTER

Christmas, it appears, is the time for giving and receiving computer viruses.

Anti-virus software maker Trend Micro Inc (趨勢科技) yesterday urged the public to stay alert because December has traditionally been a season for passing on cyber worms.

"Based on our findings, computer viruses are quite rampant in December, as Internet users send and receive more e-mail and e-cards during the holiday season," said Gary Hsu (許志成), a manager at Trend Micro, the maker of the anti-virus software, PC-Cillin.

He added that with many viruses being transmitted at the same time every year, the company expects more than 30 Internet worms may reappear and attack surfers within this month.

Among them, the viruses known as WORM_KLEZ.G and TROJ_KLEZ.A are the most destructive.

The virus disguises itself as an e-mail from a friend that says, "Hi! Could you help me to locate a job" in the subject line. Once opened, the virus takes control and jams in-boxes by re-sending itself to all listed addresses.

The bug was first noticed on Dec. 25 last year and has reportedly attacked nearly one million users around the world, Hsu said.

"The bug's variants may appear on the same date this year," he added.

Other viruses that may resurface in December include "Christmas Trees," or attachments W97M_BIBDOT.A and W97M_PRIVISSA. Once opened the viruses inside attach to Word files and will spread to the computer's systems, destroying files.

To prevent cyberbugs from infecting computers, Hsu urged Internet surfers to update their anti-virus programs periodically.

Another bugbuster also reminded the public to be cautious when opening e-mail. "I propose that users should not open any e-mail with attachments marked `.exe,' or `executable,'" said Ben Tu (杜俊霖), senior engineer at Symantec Corp in Taiwan (賽門鐵克), maker of "Norton" anti-virus software.

He explained that such files often carry some form of software payload that could cause havoc once released.

"Users may not notice this when they receive animated e-mail greeting cards," Tu said.

A safe way to send and receive Net greeting cards is to use well-known sites.

"As long as you are sending and receiving greetings via well-known Web sites, the chances of getting infected should be limited," Trend Micro's Hsu said.

Nevertheless, you're never 100 percent safe.

Back in October of this year, several Internet hackers reportedly invaded www.friendgreetings.com, infecting the computers of all users who subsequently downloaded greeting cards.

According to Hsu, that site was forced to shut down last month.

"However, users don't have to panic, because in most cases viruses can be detected and blocked by anti-virus software," he added.

The rising Internet penetration rate has made interaction between people and cyber viruses easier.

The real winners in this cyber war appear to be software providers.

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