Hacked by a pro

By Вen Li

Despite the recent arrest of 18-year-old German Internet worm writer Sven Jaschan in early August, e-mail users at the University of Calgary continues to be the target of thousands of infected e-mail messages daily. Most of the infected messages carry variants of the Netsky and Sasser worms–both Jaschan’s creations–which have been used by rival groups seeking to control infected machines over the Internet. According to anti-virus software provider Sophos, 70 per cent of virus activity on the Internet in 2004 are due to these two virus families.

On Tue., Aug. 10–the last date for which IT MailScanner statistics are available–U of C mailservers intercepted 12,913 e-mail messages before they reached users’ mailboxes, but that number is expected to rise to over 30,000 when users return to campus in the fall. Just under 200,000 infected messages were intercepted in July.

Infected computers can be remotely directed to attack web sites, send spam, or report users’ personal information to malicious Internet users. Only computers running Microsoft Windows, including the majority of home computers, are vulnerable to infection by these worms.

To combat the spread of Internet worms, Microsoft’s release of the Windows XP Service Pack 2 update to its Windows XP operating system includes new features to deny Internet access to malicious worms, viruses and programs. According to IT mailing lists, the U of C is testing the update on a limited basis. Though the update alone will not eliminate e-mail viruses and worms, the security enhancements it contains are expected to slow the spread of new viruses to and from computers on which it is installed. The update is available from Microsoft’s web site or through the Windows Update feature.

All U of C computer users, especially those using Microsoft operating systems older than Windows XP for which not all new security patches are available, should download free antivirus software and updates from the U of C IT web page.

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