The worm, which carries the aliases I-Worm.Scrapworm, IRC/Stages.ini, LIFE_STAGES.TXT.SHS, ShellScrap Worm, VBS/LifeStages, VBS/Stages.14558, VBS/Stages.2542 and VBS/Stages.worm was first described by virus researchers in late May.
The STAGES worm has been observed to work by taking advantage of installations of Pirch, Outlook, mIRC, and spreads to available mapped drives. The format the worm is known to take in subject lines is:
Body: > The male and female stages of life.
All recipients of the virus are bcc-ed, or blind carbon copied', to the email.More details have been available on Network Associates virus definitions site.
Network Associates has issued a statement identifying the source of the worm as the same author of 1999's BubbleBoy, the worm that anti-virus researchers last year reported as proof that virus-writers were getting smarter, particularly with respect to VBScript.
There is some scepticism about the potential for the virus to cause as much harm as its rating suggests. A security analyst at Australian-based group wiretapped.net suggested that the worm has been around for some time, behaving in a similar way to the well-documented Love Letter virus. "It even hides itself in the same fashion as did ILOVEYOU, with scripts attempting to hide as text files, and spreads in a fairly well-known fashion," said the analyst, saying that the worm spreads in a similarly well-known way, with users running IRC clients auto-downloading a file upon joining a channel with infected users. The wiretapped.net analyst added that antivirus companies "might have raised the alert level of this on the basis of the number of incidents, but it's nothing new."