Italian 'Love Bug' contained for now

Love bug variant fails to woo European Internet companies

Anti-virus experts in Europe said Thursday that an Italian variant of the Love Bug, thought to be spreading with speed during the night, appears to have been contained.

US anti-virus firm Trend Micro reported Wednesday that the virus, known as "Cartolina", had hit 10 companies in Germany, France and Italy, indicating that it could blow up world-wide.

European vendors said Thursday that the virus so far appears not to have bitten at other firms. UK anti-virus company Sophos has received just one report, Finnish-based vendor F-Secure reports only a "handful" of incidents and Symantec anti-virus firm says that none of its customers have been affected.

Experts say that, because it is written in Italian, the virus is unlikely to see much success outside its native Italy. Nevertheless, some remain on guard. "It could be a risk because it is of the type that spreads quickly," says Paul Brettle, product consultant for F-Secure. "But until it gets to the point where it can start spreading exponentially, it is not."

Cartonlina is a variant of the Lovebug, which wreaked havoc around the world in May last year. The virus comes in the form of a visual basic email attachment named CARTOLINA.VBS that is engineered to spread to all the email addresses found on an infected computer system. The virus also changes the home page of Internet Explorer to http://www.vije.it, an Italian music Web site.

The email that transports the virus has the subject line "C' una cartolina per te!", meaning "There's a postcard for you!".

Recent research indicates that few have learnt the lesson from the chaos and damage caused by LoveBug and its variants. Research from anti-virus firm MessageLab indicates that many people will still open a strange email with an intriguing subject. "Anyone practising 'safe computing' would never have been infected by [Cartolina] anyway," says Graham Cluely, chief technologist for Sophos anti-virus. "As they would not have double-clicked on the unsolicited attached file, especially if the sender does not speak Italian."

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