By Elinor Mills Abreu
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Computer security experts on
Monday warned of a new virus that deletes files while
masquerading as a program that will allow people to vote on
whether the United States should go to war over the Sept. 11
The "Vote Virus", which so far is not wide spread,
circulates via e-mail to users of Microsoft Corp.'s Outlook e-mail program, said Simon Perry, vice president of
security solutions at Computer Associates International Inc.
The virus, punctuated by strange grammar and a mix of
lower- and upper-case letters, appears with the subject line: "Peace between America and Islam!" and the body of the e-mail reads: "Hi. Is it a war against America or Islam!? Let's vote to live in peace!" Perry and other experts said.
When the attachment entitled "WTC.exe" is opened, the virus
tries to delete all the files on the computer's hard drive and sends copies of the e-mail to every address listed in the computer's address book, he said.
The virus also defaces any Web pages that are hosted by an
infected computer to read: "America ... few days will show you what we can do!!! It's our turn ))) ZaCker is so sorry for you," according to Perry.
In addition the virus, which is a worm because of its
self-propagation capabilities, deletes the Windows directory
files, tries to download a "backdoor" on the computer and
unsuccessfully attempts to reformat the system, said Vincent
Gullotto, senior research director of Network Associates Inc.'s Antivirus Response Team. A "backdoor" would enable
someone to get remote access to the computer without
The virus also can delete antivirus software on the
computer, according to Vincent Weafer, director of Symantec
Corp.'s Antivirus Research Center.
SICK SENSE OF HUMOR
The virus is believed to be the work of an opportunist and
not associated with the Sept. 11 jetliner attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in which nearly 7,000 people feared dead.
"There is no evidence that this is related to the people
who carried out" the attacks, Perry said.
Virus writers have discovered that they can easily dupe
people into opening emails by appealing to their prurient
For example, popular viruses have purported to be photos of
naked women or love letters, like the "I Love You" virus that caused an estimated .7 billion in global damage last year.
Researchers are worried that the new, dangerous virus might
spread quickly because of its supposed relation to the debate over U.S. retaliation for the attacks.
"We feel this is likely to get quite a high pickup in that
a lot of people are going to click on this," Perry said. "If
the news about this doesn't get out before people get their
e-mails, they're at risk."
Perry said he expects there will be more socially
engineered viruses related to the topic of war and terrorism.
"What this is a sick sense of humor," Perry said. "Chances
are this is not any kind of cyber-terrorism. It's just cyber
"If this was truly politically motivated there would have
been more of a message some place in the code," noted Gullotto.
FEW INFECTIONS SO FAR
While Symantec and Network Associates reported only a
couple of customer infections each, between five and 10 large corporate customers of Computer Associates have been infected since the virus first appeared on Monday morning, Perry said.
Researchers do not know where it originated from but it has
not yet hit Europe and Asia, he said.
The software companies are working to update their
antivirus programs to detect and protect computers against the new virus, researchers said.