E-card virus warning for Christmas - beware of viruses hiding in some E-card sites

By Lyndsey Steven
CNN


Thursday, December 19, 2002


LONDON (CNN) -- Sophisticated computer viruses are hiding behind some Christmas e-cards, wrecking the season of goodwill, analysts warn.

Thousands of European companies fall prey to viruses every month, and this figure is rising as more employees send Christmas cards through cyberspace.

A new virus called Yaha was identified by London-based watchdog Message Labs on December 13. Meanwhile new versions of the existing Trojan, Bride B and Happy 99 viruses are also spreading in the Christmas boom.

While many e-card sites are legitimate and fun, some online Christmas cards are used as smoke screens, says Alex Shipp of Message Labs. "First they will remove your anti-virus program so that you do not know they are there, then they do all sorts of nasty things like mailing out your address book so that your friends will be affected."


As well as spreading irritating e-mail, viruses can be more menacing, opening up your PC to hackers. This can expose your credit card details, financial records and personal information. They can delete files, track every Web site you visit and even go shopping online without you knowing.

Seventy percent of small to medium-sized firms have been targeted by a virus, losing on average almost a day of computer time, says Simon Williams of London-based communications firm Band and Brown. Viruses also damage trust and communication between businesses.

Williams says it is easy to be caught out by e-cards. "It looks like your software is being used legitimately, but when you open up the form you are consenting to distribute the virus."

"Use the postman for delivering Christmas cards," adds Jack Clarke of computer security firm McAfee. "The Christmas period is the time to be especially vigilant in preventing viruses."

Tips to beat the viruses
On office computers, keep work separate from personal e-mail

At home, check your PC has adequate virus protection

Remember that software may need updating

Don't open e-mails unless you are happy you know who sent them

 

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