'Stages' Virus Travels by Outlook

The e-mail appears to contain a joke outlining "the male and female stages of life," but once the attached file is opened, the virus inserts itself into Outlook and spreads itself via Outlook e-mail messages as well as mIRC and Pirch IRC (Internet relay chat) programs.

"This one became first newsworthy--went to what we call 'yellow alert'--on Friday," says David Perry, public education director at antivirus software vendor Trend Micro. "It was in a handful of Fortune 100 companies, and it's a fast-replicating virus. Anybody can get it, but because all it really does is replicate," it is not considered destructive.

Stages is an .shs virus and uses SHS files, which are also known as shell or scrap files, to spread. SHS files are created when a clipping is taken from the middle of a Microsoft Word document and dropped onto the desktop, Perry says, noting that these are not text files even though they may appear to have a text file extension.

They are "able to contain all of the scripts that are necessary in it to stitch the piece of file back into another file, and Windows always suppresses the initials of its extension SHS," Perry explains. "So if you make something called 'Stages.shs.text,' the SHS part is eliminated [in Windows] and it looks like it says 'Stages.txt.' That's just a feature of these scrap files because it's a process that Microsoft doesn't want to advertise is going on, for whatever reason. It's supposed to be more transparent that way."

Fast Worker

Like Melissa and the Love Letter virus, the Stages virus is a very fast replicator and can overload e-mail servers if a large number of copies hit a company all at once. The virus is also polymorphic, exposing itself multiple times in different formats to avoid detection.

The subject of the e-mail is randomly generated and can be one of twelve strings, according to antivirus researchers at Symantec. The subject line could be "Life Stages," "Funny," "Jokes," and others. The subject may begin with "FW" and may be followed by "text." The worm sends an e-mail to addresses listed in your MS Outlook Address book containing the LIFE_STAGES.TXT.SHS attachment. Also, it immediately deletes copies of the e-mails after they have been sent, to ensure there is no record of its presence, according to Symantec.

"It has a long way to go to top Love Letter; we don't think it's going to do that," Perry said. "Love Letter had a strong appeal for people to click on it; this one doesn't quite have that. It's not a barn-burner. I really don't want to alarm anybody or shock anybody, but it's serious enough that we think we need to talk about it [because it's spreading so quickly]."

Antivirus solutions vendors have updated their antivirus pattern files for download; Microsoft also has SHS blocking available in its Outlook e-mail security update.

Join the newsletter!

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.

Stefanie Sanborn

PC World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

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.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

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?