World Cup fever could develop into virus outbreak

Fans looking for World Cup paraphernalia on the Internet may accidentally download malicious programs, putting PCs and networks at risk

Security experts have stressed the need for caution in the hype surrounding the FIFA Soccer World Cup, or fans searching for screensavers, spreadsheets and electronic wall charts could unwittingly download infected programs.

Paul Ducklin, head of global support for antivirus vendor Sophos, said in the run-up to the last World Cup in 1998, a Word 97 macro virus was spread that asked people to guess which team would win the World Cup. If they guessed wrong, based on a random selection chosen by the program, malicious code was triggered that had the potential to format the hard drive.

Similarly, during the last World Cup an Australian organisation was compromised by the Chernobyl virus, which got in on the back of a game where you kick a ball at a goal.

"People tend to let their guard down when something internationally exciting is going on," Ducklin said, adding that this can lead to a resurgence in old viruses. "The more international the flavour of the event the more there'll be people who want to share things with their buddies."

"We advise people not to look for excuses to avoid best practice," Ducklin said. "Being a 2 percent kill-joy may increase your protection 98 percent."

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

Have your say instantly, and see what others have said. Go to the Security forum.

Let the editors know what you think in the Mailroom.