The latest version of the Netsky e-mail worm, which is programmed to launch a distributed denial-of-service attack on peer-to-peer networks, contains a message blaming users for spreading viruses and claims that Netsky's authors want to stop hacking and illegal file trading.
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Netsky.Q, the 17th variant of the worm since its debut in February, appeared yesterday and is spreading on the internet.
It arrives in e-mail file attachments with .pif (Program Information File) or .zip file extensions. Netsky also tries to exploit a long-patched Microsoft security hole that allows file attachments to be launched automatically when the e-mail message is read, according to F-Secure in Helsinki.
Netsky.Q messages are disguised to look like returned e-mail error messages that might be generated by a company's e-mail servers. For example, messages contain subjects like "Delivery Error", "Error", and "Server Error".
When opened, the e-mail displays messages such as "Mail Delivery - This mail couldn't be displayed", and claim to contain a version of the rejected message as a "binary attachment", enticing users to click on the virus file.
Like earlier versions of Netsky, this version installs itself on Windows machines when the file attachment is opened. It also combs the infected machine's hard drive and harvests e-mail addresses from a variety of file types.
Netsky.Q is programmed to mail copies of itself to addresses it finds tomorrow (31 March), and on 5, 12, 19 and 26 April, said Sophos.
Computers infected with this variant are also programmed to launch a denial-of-service attack on a number of P-to-P and pirated software websites including www.kazaa.com, www.edonkey2000.com and www.cracks.am on 7 and 12 April, F-Secure warned.
A message buried in the worm's code may explain the programmed attacks on P-to-P networks.
In the message, the Netsky author or authors claim to represent a benevolent group called "SkyNet Antivirus Team" based in "Russia", and draw distinctions between their creation and other worms that open back doors on infected computers that can be used to relay spam message or facilitate future hacking.
"We don't have any criminal inspirations [sic]. Due to many reports, we do not have any backdoors included for spam relaying," the text said, which was hidden in the worm and transcribed by Sophos and other antivirus companies.
As for the computer users harmed by their worm, the authors say that users need better education, not software updates offered by antivirus companies.
Netsky's authors have been locked in a war of words with the creators of the Bagle virus family in recent weeks. The two groups have used new worm variants as vehicles for barbs and retorts to previous insults.
The Netsky authors also declare their opposition to "hacking, sharing with illegal stuff and similar illegal content".
Antivirus companies released new signatures designed to detect Netsky.Q and recommended that customers update their antivirus software.
Paul Roberts writes for IDG News Service