A new version of the Storm e-mail virus is populating blogs and online bulletin boards with links directing people to a Web site that is propagating the worm, representing a new mode of attack for hackers seeking financial gain, according to a security vendor that became aware of the virus Monday night.
The Storm Worm attacks in December and January used infected e-mails to hijack personal computers and add them to "bot-nets," networks of infected computers used by hackers to distribute spam and viruses.
Within the past day, a variation of this virus was found to be using infected computers to place malicious links on various Web sites, according to Secure Computing , a messaging security vendor based in San Jose, Calif.
If your computer is infected, the virus can add malicious text to any message you post to a blog or bulletin board. The text says, "Have you seen this?" and is followed by a URL containing the phrases "freepostcards" and "funvideo."
"The new thing about this virus is the way it propagates. It's basically filling up Web pages all over the Internet with links to the malware," says Dmitri Alperovitch, principal research scientist for Secure Computing.
Clicking on the link causes the virus to be downloaded to the user's computer. "It turns you into a zombie. Your computer is now under full control under the criminal that is in control of this bot-net," Alperovitch says.
The virus is a rootkit that integrates fully into an operating system, so it scans traffic to and from your machine and could intercept your bank account information or other sensitive data. The bot-net can also be used to launch an attack against a Web site, effectively shutting the site down by flooding it with traffic from infected computers, Alperovitch states. Hackers sometimes launch these attacks so they can demand ransom money from Web site owners in exchange for stopping the attack, according to Alperovitch.
Some antivirus programs have trouble finding the virus, he says, but you can figure out if your computer is infected by posting to a blog or bulletin board and seeing if your message contains the malicious link.
Typically, though, a user will not realize he or she is infected, and people who read postings to blogs and bulletin boards may be fooled into thinking the link should be trusted.
"Because they're not looking to destroy data on your machine, you may not realize until much later that anything is happening," Alperovitch says.