If the attachment is opened, it sends similar emails to addresses found on the computer and downloads code intended to add the PC to a botnet used for sending spam. Symantec's analysis shows that the latest versions of the malware include a rootkit capable of hiding several files and registry keys, although it fails to conceal the ports it uses and has other bugs that can cause crashes.
An infected machine has been observed sending nearly 1800 stock-pumping messages in five minutes before falling quiet. Symantec reports that this Trojan accounts for over a quarter of all the spam being sent around the world in the last month. The company gives it a 3 on its 5-point severity scale as although the potential for damage is high, it is easily contained.
"People must learn to think before they click. It may be tempting to open an attachment which you think is a greeting card or a message from a loved one, but love can get you into trouble sometimes. The best defense is common sense, combined with up-to-date anti-virus software and email filtering at your gateway," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos.
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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences, a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies, and is a senior member of the Australian Computer Society.