Romeo and Juliet virus fails to flare up

Virus probably won't end in tragedy according to UK antivirus vendors

Antivirus firms in the UK have reassured customers that the "Romeo and Juliet" virus, part of a more dangerous trend in virus writing, currently poses only a minor threat to computer users.

Email scanning company GFI drew attention to the virus with an alert warning that current virus scanning software could not detect it.

Antivirus researchers at Symantec and Network Associates, however, say that only a handful of customers in Europe have reported the virus. Reports are mainly restricted to Poland where the virus is believed to have originated.

"We've prioritised it as low risk," says Jack Clark, European product manager for Network Associates AntiVirus. "But have made the extra drivers available if needed."

Unlike the Love Bug and the majority of other viruses, Romeo and Juliet does not require a user to open a file. The virus relies on a well known vulnerability in Outlook Express to activate malicious code when an HTML email message is viewed.

Chief researcher at Symantec Eric Chien agrees that the virus does not pose a significant threat. "We don't expect it to be major," he says. Chien says that the impact of the virus will be limited by the fact that the virus relies on this old exploit as well as the fact that most of the mail servers it uses have been reconfigured to block it.

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