Byte Me Article 221 – You don’t want to catch this virus

You Don’t Want to Catch this Virus

So you have just received an email from one of your friends or work acquaintances – possibly even someone that emails you every day, and it has a zip file attachment.  The subject is most likely just ‘Scan’ and in the body of the email it simply says “Check the document”.  What happens next?

There are really only two scenarios left at this point.  You can simply delete the email and everyone has a good day – or you can click on the attachment to open it and see what it is all about.  If you choose the latter then you have just kicked a little snow ball at the top of a steep snow laden slope!

The email attachment is in fact the latest cleverly coded virus that is doing the rounds and becoming very prevalent.  So, if you try opening this attachment there is obviously no such attached scan!  Instead a root kit virus (one of the worst kind) is released onto your system.  It immediately looks for your email address book and propagates itself to everyone in it.  Yes – every person that is in your address book will also now have a copy of the virus sitting in their inbox – saying that you sent it to them!

2015-05-16 Byte Me Artilce 221 - Check the document

Why doesn’t your anti-virus software stop it?  Each time this virus gets onto another new PC it changes its own coding and therefore it sends itself to all of your contacts with a different electronic signature to the email that you received in the first place.  Anti-virus software mostly needs a single non-changing signature to zero in on and take appropriate action on (deletion).  The changing signature presents more of a challenge.

Anti-virus companies will now be busy reverse engineering this virus to find out more about its base building blocks.  If they do this right then they can release an update to your anti-virus which will target a more generic version of the actual virus without having to worry about its exact signature.  Then your anti-virus will become effective and the rampant spread of this latest Internet threat will be stemmed.

The other problem that you face if you do open one of these emails is that because the virus is so new, there is very little known about its end game.  Is it like a time bomb that propagates to all of your contacts and then tries to muck further with your system?  Will it at some stage invite a more destructive virus into your PC?  At this point in time, apart from simply multiplying, very little is known about its longer term effects.

The moral of this story!  Way too many people are still getting caught opening up email attachments when the body of the email is too vague.  Fair enough, the email may have come from one of your most trusted long term friends – or even a larger corporate supplier that you use, but don’t get drawn in.

If someone legitimately wants you to open an attachment then they will also tell you what the attachment is about.  If still in doubt then give them a 30 second phone call and you may well be dodging a rather large, painful snow ball! 

Future Byte Me topics can be emailed to [email protected] and Bruce is contactable at Kerr Solutions, 205 Musgrave Street or on 49 222 400.

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