This week Ian Hameroff, director of security research at Computer Associates, points out that virus writers are doing nothing new, and that users are still falling for the same old tricks.
Most computer virus creators are not original. As with Hollywood film executives they go with what works and then make a sequel.
One of the recent variations of the Yaha virus illustrates this practice. Win32.Yaha.K is the eleventh instalment of the virus series originally found in the wild in February 2002, and is by no means the last.
In just the past few weeks, the antivirus community has identified two more: Yaha.L and Yaha.M.
The existence of more than 10 sequels to Yaha should not excessively worry web users, especially when you consider that antivirus researchers have tracked more then 30 variants of the infamous 'Iloveyou' virus since the first outbreak back in May 2000.
What is more alarming is the continued similarity in the characteristics of Yaha (and most other current virus threats) to previous attacks, and the fact that too many computer users continue to fall victim to it.
How many times does it take before we learn to stop blindly touching the internet version of a blazing hot stove?
I often find myself screaming at computer screens, as one often does at the cinema when the foolish college co-ed walks right into the clutches of a trap set by the film's villain, when computer users are enticed by the classic virus propagation method of social engineering.
The Yaha.K virus arrives as an email with one of several subject headings including offers of free money, romance or the opportunity to learn the magic of SQL programming.
The message body closely mirrors spam, another cyber-menace, suggesting to the recipient that they have been specially selected to try a new product or that a new friendship is on the horizon.
The normal knee-jerk response to this spam type message should be the fast track to the Recycling Bin. But no such luck.
The bamboozled computer user double-clicks on the attachment unleashing the payload and spreading Yaha to other potential victims.
The techniques utilised in this Yaha sequel are neither new nor overly innovative, but are still successful enough to warrant their application yet again.
The lesson here is that, until computer users do the equivalent of not going to the cinema to see a terrible sequel of a movie, virus creators will continue to release malware that is as original as the plot to a James Bond movie and just as effective in stacking up victims.
All computer users must adopt a few basic, common sense habits to protect themselves. They should be immediately wary of any email message harbouring an unsolicited attachment, even if it appears to be from a trusted source.
A quick email back to the sender could immediately dispel or confirm that the message contains a virus.
Also, a trip to one of the many security vendor virus encyclopaedia sites or an internet search engine will help uncover the true nature of the unexpected message.
Lastly, all computer users need to run and update an antivirus solution as well as install a desktop firewall. With these practical precautions in place, computer users will find their odds of being infected significantly reduced.
To many these steps may appear elementary, but the facts clearly show that not enough users are practising them. Otherwise, Yaha.K would not exist and I would not be writing this article.
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