A sly kick to catch you offguard

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Raja Simhan T E

Chennai, June 9

Beware! Football World Cup could be used as a vehicle for online fraudsters to plant malicious code and virus to attack personal computers.

Recently, there was a mass-mailing worm called Banwarum that was using the World Cup to send themed e-mail messages. The worm sends itself as a password protected archive and includes in the e-mail the password for it.

The e-mails sent by the worm are in German and some of them offer tickets for the football games in Germany, according to F-Secure, a Finnish company that protects individuals and businesses against computer viruses and other threats spreading through the Internet and mobile networks.

This was just one example of online viruses doing the rounds during the World Cup, which kicked off today.

Vehicle for fraudsters

"We are already seeing the World Cup being used as a vehicle for online fraudsters to plant malicious code on to seemingly innocent Web sites, and they are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Social engineering techniques, through spam and phishing scams, mean that even the most Internet-savvy could download malicious code without knowing, so businesses need to be prepared," said Mr Surendra Singh, Head South East Asia and India for Websense, which is into Internet filtering and Web security solutions to help companies productively use the Internet.

Companies should promote safe surfing throughout the year and have the relevant security systems in place to back this up, he said.

Wallchart Trojan

Experts at the UK-based SophosLabs, Sophos's global network of virus, spyware and spam analysis centres, last week reported a Trojan horse that has been spammed out, posing as a wallchart for the World Cup.

The Troj/Haxdoor-IN Trojan horse was spammed out to computer users via a link in a message offering a free wall chart for fans wishing to follow their favourite teams in the tournament. If computer users are tempted into running the malicious program they risk allowing hackers to gain access to their computer for criminal ends.

All examples of the e-mails seen so far have been in the German language, but there is no reason to believe that hackers will not switch to using other languages to increase their pool of potential victims, the company said.

Not the first time

This is not the first time that hackers have taken advantage of the World Cup competition.

A year ago, the Sober-N worm offered tickets to the tournament in an attempt to entrap unprotected users. In 2002, the VBS/Chick-F virus tried to exploit workers desperate to find out the latest scores from the World Cup in South Korea/Japan.

In 1998, in the run-up to the World cup competition in France, another football-inspired virus asked infected victims to gamble on who the winner might be, and if the user did not choose the right team, it triggered a warhead that was capable of wiping all the data off the hard drive, according to information available in the company's Web site.

Companies are recommended to protect their e-mail with a consolidated solution to thwart the virus, spyware and spam threats and secure their desktops and servers with automatically updated anti-virus protection, said Sophos.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated June 10, 2006)
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