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An email-borne virus that tries to spread by tricking users into clicking an attachment that promises a picture of Britney Spears has found few takers.

Britney-A, a Visual Basic Script (VBS) worm, normally arrives at a victim's inbox with the subject line "RE:Britney Pics", body text "Take a look at these pics..." and infected attachment "BRITNEY.CHM."

The worm requires ActiveX to be enabled for the VBS to run and so it prompts the user to enable ActiveX with the message "Enable ActiveX To See Britny (sic) Pictures".

If a user is daft enough to do this, Britney-A will infect a victim's hard drive and send itself to all addresses in the Outlook address book. The worm, which is not particularly destructive, also attempts to distribute itself via Internet Relay Chat.

AV vendor Sophos reports receiving only one report of this worm in the wild, but in view of Britney's fame, the company is nonetheless encouraging users to be vigilant. Antivirus vendors are in the process of updating their packages to detect the worm and protection is now largely in place.

The virus writer has used standard social engineering tricks in creating Britney-A. Previous stars who've had viruses written about them include Anna Kournikova and Jennifer Lopez.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos Anti-Virus, said the modest spread of the virus doesn't necessarily imply that the old tactic of using sex to spread infectious code is running out of steam.

"It is encouraging that this virus isn't spreading but that might be because it didn't get lucky and reach the critical mass it needed to spread quickly after its release," Cluley said.

The design of the code - in particular requiring ActiveX to be enabled - might also explain the failure of the Britney-A to chart, said Cluley, who added that users should remember basic safe computing rules and not be coaxed into opening any unsolicited email attachments. ®

External links

Write up of the Britney Spears virus by Sophos
Guidelines for safer computing

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