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17 Jan 2005

Tsunami disaster donation plea is really a virus, Sophos reports

Virus experts at Sophos have discovered a mass-mailing worm that poses as a plea for donations to help with the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster.

The W32/VBSun-A worm spreads via email, tempting innocent users into clicking onto its malicious attachment by pretending to be information about how to donate to a tsunami relief effort. However, running the attached file will not only forward the virus to other internet users but can also initiate a denial-of-service attack against a German hacking website.

The email sent by the VBSun-A worm
The email sent by the VBSun-A worm.

Emails sent by the worm have the following characteristics:

Subject line:
Tsunami Donation! Please help!

Message text:
Please help us with your donation and view the attachment below! We need you!

Attachment name:
tsunami.exe

"Duping innocent users into believing that they may be helping the tsunami disaster aid efforts shows hackers stooping to a new low," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "This gruesome insensitivity is a despicable ploy to get curious computer users to run malicious code on their computers. Everyone should be wary of unsolicited email attachments, and visit the established charity websites instead if they wish to assist those suffering as a result of the disaster."

W32/VBSun-A is not the first virus to try and take advantage of the tsunami disaster in an attempt to spread. The VBS/Geven-B worm tried to spread a sick message earlier this month that the tsunami was God's revenge on "people who did bad on earth". There have also been a number of email scams distributed by criminals posing as victims in an attempt to steal money.

Although there have only been a small number of reports of the W32/VBSun-A worm, Sophos recommends computer users ensure their anti-virus software is up-to-date, and that companies protect themselves with a consolidated solution which can defend them from the threats of both spam and viruses.

About Sophos

More than 100 million users in 150 countries rely on Sophos as the best protection against complex threats and data loss. Sophos is committed to providing complete security solutions that are simple to deploy, manage, and use and that deliver the industry's lowest total cost of ownership. Sophos offers award-winning encryption, endpoint security, web, email, mobile and network security solutions backed by SophosLabs - a global network of threat intelligence centers.

Sophos is headquartered in Boston, US and Oxford, UK. More information is available at www.sophos.com.