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An email-borne virus which touts itself as a picture of someone's "Naked Wife", but instead delivers a payload which can cripple a Windows PC, is doing the rounds.

However spread of the Naked Wife worm, which is written in Visual Basic, has so far been contained, and the signs are that although some US firms have been infected we are not facing any kind of computer meltdown. According to antivirus firm McAfee, the virus has been discovered in 25 firms including Fortune 500 companies, but the outlook in the UK is far better.

Alex Shipp, senior anti-virus technologist at MessageLabs, which scans customers email for malicious code, said so far it had intercepted 63 copies of the virus.

"People have largely got their security in place after the recent Anna bug so we're not seeing this spread so much," he added.

Naked Wife uses much the same techniques and lurid tactics used in the Anna Kournikova virus in order to fool complacent users into helping it spread. However it caries a more destructive payload.

The virus arrives in an email with "Fw: Naked Wife" in the subject line and the message "My wife never look like that! ;-)". Users who click on the attached file, called "Naked Wife.exe", get a dialogue box that fools them into thinking a Flash movie is loading while the worm does its damage in the background.

According to antivirus firm Command, the Naked Wife worm mails a copy of itself to all the users in a victim's Outlook address book and attempts to delete several files from the Windows and Windows/System folders.

The deletion of .bmp, .com, .dll, .exe, and .ini by the worm which will render a user's system unusable, forcing them to reinstall their Windows operating system.

Bruce Walton, managing director of Command UK, said "You would assume people wouldn't open the attachment but with the amount of porn traffic going around, there's always someone who'll take the risk and click on it."

Antivirus vendors are in the process of updating their software to deal with the virus and, in most cases, the necessary protection is already in place. ®

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