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COLUMBIA, S.C. – The newest big threat on the Web is the Fizzer worm, which first appeared in the Far East last week and is now spreading through the Internet. Fizzer is considered a back-door Trojan virus, experts said, and spreads via a number of methods, including e-mail attachments and peer-to-peer file sharing systems like the popular KaZaa service. Fizzer’s threat is highlighted by its mass-mailing functionality. Once activated, it will send itself to addresses contained in an infected machine’s Outlook and Windows address books. Linux/Unix and Macintosh machines apparently are not currently affected. The worm also includes a denial-of-service attack tool and data-stealing capability, according to F-Secure, a leading European Internet security firm. At press time this week, the virus was reported to be in several countries already and to have reached the United States but there were no immediate reports of the kind of outage problems that have occurred from earlier attacks. However, its infection rate was climbing and several Internet security services rated its threat as severe. Symantec and MacAfee, the two biggest U.S. anti-virus software services, considered Fizzer to be a medium threat. The denial-of-service problems that such attacks can cause were pointed out by recent outbreaks of such worms as the recent SQL Slammer. Hundreds of thousands of computers were affected globally, and the outbreak even snarled some ATM networks, most notably Bank of America’s. CUNA Network Services said the Internet backbone provider it uses to host credit union sites also was affected for a time over that weekend. MessageLabs, a leading security firm, said its scanners captured 18,000 e-mail messages containing Fizzer on Monday alone. Such numbers were considered likely to rise, and Fizzer was noted to be a particularly sophisticated attacker. “This is one of the more complicated worms we’ve seen,” said Mikko Hypponen, manager of anti-virus research at F-Secure in Helsinki, Finland. “The worm is 200 kilobytes of code spaghetti, containing backdoors, code droppers, attack agents, key loggers and even a small Web server,” he said. The key-logger may be a particularly nefarious threat. It can potentially capture keystrokes and screen shots that could reveal confidential personal information such as account numbers and passwords and send them back to the attacker. Fizzer also generates random e-mail addresses and targets them, and it even attacks anti-virus programs and tries to terminate or remove them. “As this worm is already widespread, there must now be scores of computers on the Internet without any virus protection, because Fizzer has removed it,” Hypponen said. -

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