Virus exploits celebrity cachet

Another naked-celebrity virus is doing the rounds, relying on curious email users to open an attachment
Written by Will Sturgeon, Contributor

Users hoping for a sneaky peek at some candid shots of Hollywood star Julia Roberts in compromising positions are facing disappointment -- the email attachment turns out to be a computer virus.

Curious smut-seekers are in danger of infecting their machines with the mass-mailing worm MyLife.M, which purports to be a screensaver featuring the "Notting Hill" star.

However, the virus is still carrying a low-level warning from most anti-virus vendors and appears to be doing very little damage currently, perhaps because of the lack of originality in terms of infection methods.

It is the latest variation on a theme which has proven popular with virus writers -- promising shots of naked celebrities to entice users to click on the attachment.

Anna Kournikova, Jennifer Lopez, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Colombian singer Shakira have all be given the dubious honour of having a virus named after them.

Raimund Genes, president of European operations at antivirus firm Trend Micro, said: "This worm was originally discovered two days ago but didn't spread at that time. This morning, however we found reports of attacks in Germany and the Middle East, this later spread to Japan and has been discovered within some well known global companies, it is now also prevalent in the UK.

"One of the key factors of this kind of worm is the fact that sex sells -- it is not a new concept but it will always encourage people to open the attachment. However, lots of people have learnt from the Kournikova virus, which is why the spread of this worm has not been so dramatic."

As with other mass mailers, the email attachment when activated searches out email addresses on the infected machine and forwards itself on to all names in the affected user's address book. Worse still, if the time is between 50 and 59 minutes past the hour, upon activation it will also attempt to delete files from the machine's hard drive, according to Sophos.

As ever, users are advised to be careful when opening anything which comes into their inbox, especially if they cannot vouch for the attachment or the sender. Ideally users should only open files they have specifically requested or are expecting.

For all security-related news, including updates on the latest viruses, hacking exploits and patches, check out ZDNet UK's Security News Section.

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