IronPort warns of spam in news headline e-mails

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Spam filtering services firm IronPort warns of a spam virus that has been under way in e-mails with news-titled headlines that began last Thursday.

According to IronPort's Threat Operations the virus is found in e-mails with subject lines that are demographically specific to the recipient, like "230 dead as storm batters Europe" and "British Muslims Genocide." Within the e-mail the reader is instructed to open a video clip to see more, at which point the reader is infected with spy ware.

"This virus uses social engineering techniques to entice users to open up the message," said Dave Mayer, product manager at IronPort, San Bruno, CA. "It rotated ten to twenty different subject lines, each targeted at a different demographic, like the storms in Europe or Saddam Hussein still being alive."

IronPort is still tracking the source, but e-mails have shown up worldwide. IronPort is studying the patterns of the virus with its software, as well as with human eyes.

Mr. Mayer said that viruses typically spike linearly when sent from a central source. But since these e-mails are being sent from zombie computers, host PCs that could have been infected by the virus, the outbreak has spread more rapidly in every direction.

"We saw 300,000 messages sent out to our customers alone in the first three and a half hours that the virus was circulating, which is the largest amount of spam that we've seen in such a short amount of time," Mr. Mayer said.

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