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E-Mail Virus Spreads Quickly

Security experts call the Sobig worm the fastest of its kind. Systems operators intercept thousands of messages.

August 21, 2003|From Bloomberg News

The Sobig computer worm, which security experts are calling the fastest-spreading e-mail virus ever seen, infected more computer systems Wednesday, including the state of New Jersey's.

Computer security experts have been working since Monday to eradicate Sobig before it sends more junk e-mails, clogging home and business computers, said Steven Sundermeier, a vice president with Central Command Inc., a security software company based in Medina, Ohio. Sobig has spread faster than any other virus of its type, he said.

Computer systems operators have intercepted thousands of unwanted e-mails. The worm can send out about 10 times as many unsolicited e-mails as earlier versions, said Mark Sunner, chief technology officer at New York-based MessageLabs Inc., a security consulting company.

"It's one of the most unprecedented viruses that we have seen so far, in terms of its ability to disseminate itself," he said. "We have intercepted a million infected e-mail messages in a 24-hour period. That puts it in the top of our league table."

Officials in New Jersey are finding it a nuisance, said Kathleen Ellis, spokeswoman for New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey. Philadelphia city officials have intercepted 10,000 e-mails infected with Sobig, said Dianah Neff, the city's chief information officer. "It hasn't done any damage, but it's clogging our system," she said.

The virus was also found in computer networks of the states of New York and North Carolina, officials in those states said.

AOL Time Warner Inc.'s America Online unit, the No. 1 Internet service provider, discovered 11.5 million e-mails infected with Sobig since Tuesday, when it began looking for the virus, said Nicholas Graham, a spokesman for the New York-based company.

"That clearly demonstrates there's a problem in how widespread this virus is on the Internet," he said. "It also shows we are stepping in to protect our members and provide a buffer."

Properly updated antiviral programs can find the worm, security companies said. E-mails infected with Sobig have messages that include "Re: Wicked screensaver" and "Re: Your application."

Network Associates Inc., which makes McAfee antiviral software, estimates that three times as many home users as businesses have been infected.

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