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Klez.E, one of the variations of the nasty Klez family of computer worms, is set to detonate on Friday, but security experts are mixed on damage predictions.

Klez.E is designed to deliver its payload on the sixth day of March, May, September and November, and if activated the bug has the ability to erase as many as 14 different types of files, including Word documents and HTML files.

Klez was first detected in 2001, and shortly after it was discovered, anti-virus firms quickly developed patches and upgrades to block the bug from entering systems. Over the following months, however, variations of Klez appeared, including one version that contained the Elkern virus, which has the insidious ability to disable anti-virus software.

For the month of August, MessageLabs said it stopped 535,000 copies of Klez, up from 475,000 Klez-infected e-mails in July. Indeed, by all accounts, the worm is one of the longest lasting and most widespread bugs of all time, topping MessageLabs' virus charts for five months in a row.

The virus that is set to go off on Friday, Klez.E, is another variant of the Klez bug, but it only accounts for 3 percent of all Klez mails and possibly even fewer infections. Klez.H is by far the most widespread version of the malware.

"The corporate market has encountered Klez as an irritant," explained Colm Fahy, senior security consultant at Systemhouse Technology Group in Dublin. "The blocking of those mails has been the biggest issue, not actual infections." Fahy admitted that SMEs and home users with out-of-date e-security systems may encounter more problems when the bug unleashes its payload, but he expects minimal damage for corporate users. "We're not panicking on it... you should be well protected at this point," he said.

Taking a slightly different tack, Conor Flynn of Irish e-security company Rits said that infected users might not even know they are infected, which could cause big problems. "The problem is not knowing what's going to happen. There are people who have it that don't know they have it, so there is potential for a lot of activity," he said, noting that some variations of Klez can disable security tools.

"If you are in that 3 percent [that have been hit by Klez.E], you are going to have pretty bad day," Flynn said. © ENN

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