New e-mail virus targets Windows, IE

A new e-mail-borne virus variously known as "Tanatos," and "W32/Bugbear," is being circulated as an e-mail attachment and appears to target machines running Microsoft Corp. operating systems, according to alerts issued by a number of computer security companies.

The virus file is attached to e-mails with a wide variety of subject lines such as "bad news," "Membership Confirmation," "Market Update Report," and "Your Gift," and appears to use randomly-generated names to avoid detection by antivirus software, as well as multiple file extensions to disguise the fact that it is an executable file, according to Vincent Gullotto, vice president of the McAfee AVERT (Anti-Virus Emergency Response Team) at Network Associates Inc.

Once activated, the virus shuts down scores of vital processes used by Windows and by antivirus software, records user keystrokes, opens a backdoor to the infected machine for use by attackers, and attempts to mail copies of itself out to other users, randomly generating new subject lines and virus executable names as it does, according to Gullotto.

Despite receiving numerous copies of the virus from customers and partners, however, antivirus researchers at AVERT have been unable to get the mail function of the virus to work, said Gullotto.

"All samples we've seen may not be the result of a mass mailing produced by someone launching the virus. We could just be witnessing the seeding of the virus, by the author, rather than evidence that it's working on other systems, " said Gullotto.

The new virus takes advantage of a known vulnerability in Microsoft's Internet Explorer versions 5.01 and 5.5 that allows attackers to embed malicious code in the header of an improperly formatted HTML message that could cause e-mail clients such as Outlook to automatically launch attached executable files.

Microsoft addressed the issue in Service Bulletin MS01-020 and issued a patch for the vulnerability in March of 2001.

The fact that the virus targets a known and patched vulnerability, coupled with its apparent inability to mail itself makes security experts such as Gullotto doubt that this new threat will spread too widely.

"At this point (AVERT) is rating this a medium risk. We don't expect it to be a big issue."

Still, Gullotto advises users of Internet Explorer to make sure that they have applied any available security patches. Users of Internet Explorer version 5 are particularly vulnerable to infection by Tanatos, he said -- especially if they are not blocking e-mail attachments.

And, as with all new viruses, the appearance of Tanatos points to the need for IT managers to take a hard look at vulnerabilites in their network infrastructure.

"People need to revisit their security policies and practices," said Gullotto.

"I know that it's a lot of work to stay on top of these patches -- Microsoft released 50 of them this year alone. But you have to weigh your risks--are you going to do nothing and wait for something to happen, or are you going to find a way to incorporate patching into your processes?"

Join the newsletter!

Or
Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Paul Roberts

Computerworld
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?