24 June 2005

Unison.ie / Irish Independent

Crippling virus hits eircom.net clients through rogue emails

A POTENTIALLY crippling computer virus which is sweeping the country purports to originate from an Eircom email account.

Thousands of eircom.net email customers across the country have been sent and continue to receive the emails containing the virus from at least two separate eircom.net accounts.

If activated, the virus disables existing anti-virus software, leaving computers wide open to viruses from which they may previously have been protected.

Subject matter in the emails can vary, but one accuses subscribers of sending "a huge amount of unsolicited spam messages" and asks them to open the attached document "so you will not run into any future problems with the online service". The file attached to the email is not a document but a programme, which if initiated disables a computer's anti-virus software.

A spokesperson for eircom.net, the country's leading internet service provider, has confirmed that the potentially damaging emails have not been sent by them but by a spammer who "uses a legitimate brand or company name to disguise where their emails are originating. This is what has happened in this case and we can assure our customers that the mail has not been sent by us."

The spokesperson confirmed that the virus, called 'W32/Mytob.EP@mm', is a mass-mailing worm which opens a back door into systems and lowers security settings on the compromised computer.

If the attachment is opened on a PC with even the most up-to-date anti-virus software, it can send itself from user to user. This means it can be sent to another computer without the sender's knowledge.

Eircom asks anyone affected by the virus to contact them as soon as possible. "We have a dedicated security section on our support site which offers people tips and advice on how to avoid viruses, and highlights all current viruses which people should avoid." Computer users are warned not to open attachments on emails from people unknown to them or emails that seem odd.

Last week, thousands of bogus emails were sent from Leinster House after a virus infiltrated its computer system. People on email lists at the Oireachtas were bombarded with spam emails after a virus caused its system to send out thousands of them.

Up to 70pc of all viruses being detected in Europe are variants of the Sober virus. A generation of viruses which can infect mobile phones and could threaten to collapse wireless networks has also been uncovered recently.

More than 50 viruses targeted at mobiles have been detected in the first six months of 2005. The figure has alarmed security firms as it is only a year since Cabir, the first mobile phone virus, was identified.

At least one virus, Commwarrior, infects a handset through a Bluetooth connection.

Pat Flynn

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