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The outbreak of a mass emailing worm, which masquerades as a matchmaking program, has been brought under control.

Matcher infects Windows machines only and comes in an email with the subject: "Matcher". The misspelled and grammatically incorrect body text reads: "Want to find your love mates!!! Try this its cool. Looks and Attitude Maching to opposite sex".

The worm was written in Visual Basic and compiled into an executable.

If a user opens the infected attachment, called matcher.exe, the virus attempts to spread by mass mailing itself to everyone in the victim's Outlook address book.

Matcher does not damage infected PC but can potentially overload email servers, as it tries to mass mail itself every minute.

The frenetic rate of mailing suggests that the virus would spread like wildfire if it took hold; but it has proved something of a damp squib.

MessageLabs, a managed services firm which scans its customers' email for malicious code, has intercepted just 150 copies of the worm, far fewer than previous email worms that used sex as a lure - such as the potent Anna Kournikova bug.

Graham Cluley, of antivirus vendor Sophos, said people are less likely to open it than if it disguised itself as a smutty picture because the worm presents itself as an executable to a application. Matcher is "not as sophisticated in the use of psychology" as the Love Bug (which promised to be either a joke or a flirtatious message), he reckons.

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. That said the worm has caused a fair bit of inconvenience.

Cluley said that one of Sophos' French clients, a well known multinational firm, shut down its email servers for two hours in order to prevent its systems becoming overwhelmed by the virus.

Another source in the security industry informs us that a multinational firm in the petrochemicals industry has also been hit by the virus and is yet to disinfect all its machines. ®

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