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Feared ComputerE-Mail Virus Is Said to Be Contained

August 24, 2003|By Associated Press

NEW YORK — A feared Internet attack resulting from a fast-spreading computer virus fizzled Friday. Security experts said they contained the virus by identifying and blocking computers key to coordinating it.

Instructions written into the latest version of the "Sobig" virus, which has caused enormous headaches since it began appearing Tuesday, called for infected Windows machines to try to download a program that, prior to 3 p.m. EDT Friday, had an unknown function.

Experts feared the program would delete files, steal passwords or create rogue servers for spreading junk e-mail.

But when the appointed time came, all the virus did was visit a pornography site, said Vincent Weafer, security director with Symantec Security Response. "There is nothing malicious, just a standard sex site," he said.

Also Friday,, a Phoenix-based provider of newsgroup services, said it was complying with an FBI subpoena for information on an account used to distribute the virus. Easynews said the account appeared to have been created with a stolen credit card.

Paul Bresson of the FBI would only say that the agency was investigating.

The attack began with the virus attempting to reach one of 20 computers, mostly in the United States and Canada, to obtain information key to continuing. Infected computers were programmed to keep trying every Friday and Sunday between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. EDT.

Antivirus experts identified those computers and persuaded their Internet service providers to shut access to some of them.

"There's a potential risk for Sunday, but I think it's really mitigated," said Chris Rouland, vice president for research and development at Internet Security Systems Inc. "All the network operators are aware they need to block these (Internet addresses) now."

The attempted attack also created higher-than-normal Internet traffic that was "measurable" but not enough to congest the Web, he said.

Users get the Sobig virus when they click on attachments to e-mail carrying such subject lines as "Details," "Approved" and "Thank you!"

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