Microsoft Corp's Windows operating system fell victim to a new worm being spread through e-mail, with 839 infections by late afternoon in California, according to a manager at anti-virus software Symantec Corp.
The worm, a variant of one dubbed "Sobig," attacks computers running most types of Windows, said Vincent Weafer, senior director for security response at Cupertino, California-based Symantec, the world's largest maker of anti-virus software.
Subject lines of messages with the worm include "Wicked screensaver" and "Your application," he said.
Sobig is occurring while computer operators are trying to fix damage caused by "Blaster," a worm that exploited a weakness in Microsoft Corp's Windows and infected 1.4 million systems. Another worm, "Code Red," infected 359,000 systems in less than 14 hours on June 19, 2001, according to a research paper.
"Sobig has been major factor on home-user and small business machines," Weafer said in a recent interview.
He rates the severity of the program a three on a scale of one to five.
Blaster, which had infected computers about three times faster in its first several hours, was rated a four, he said.
Security software company Network Associates Inc of Santa Clara, California, raised its warning on the worm from "medium" to "high" for home users. It remains at medium for corporate users.
Sobig is a variant of an earlier worm, a computer virus that spreads by copying itself to disk drives, systems or networks.
Unlike a virus, a worm doesn't require a program or file to latch onto in order to disseminate. Computer operators first noticed the worm yesterday.
The worm is searching for e-mail addresses so that it can spread to other systems, said Brian King, Internet security analyst at the CERT Coordination Center at Carnegie Mellon University.
The virus won't propagate itself after Sept. 10. Creators of worms and viruses have put time limits on their creations before, he said.
Variations of Sobig have circulated since January.
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