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A new computer virus targets PayPal users in an attempt to dupe consumers into divulging sensitive credit card details. Mimail-I, the latest in a series of security-threatening worms, has spread widely since its first appearance yesterday.

Mimail-I typically arrives in an email with a subject line of "YOUR PAYPAL.COM ACCOUNT EXPIRES", asking recipients to provide detailed information about their credit card, claiming that PayPal is "implementing a new security policy".

The email tells recipients not to send your personal information through email (ironically, correctly advising you that email is insecure). Instead users are instructed to run an attached program instead.

If you run the program, attached in a file called "www.paypal.com.scr", a dialog box pops up requesting you to enter a range of information about your credit card. This includes your full credit card number, your PIN, the expiry date, and even the so-called CVV code (the three-digit security code printed on the back of your card which is not recorded by credit card machines during transactions). The dialog includes a PayPal logo in a further attempt to appear legitimate, as explained here.

"Mimail-I tries to harvest your bank card data and then sends it out to the bad guys in an email," said Paul Ducklin of Sophos. "It even includes a realistic-looking checkbox which you are expected to tick in order to confirm that the details you have entered are correct.

"But the email sent to you by Mimail-I could never be legitimate," Ducklin points out. "Banks and credit card companies never request information of this sort via email, just as computer security companies never send out patches this way."

As well as stealing bank information, Mimail-I sends itself to everybody whose email addresses appear on a user's hard disk.

Mimail-I is a Windows-only menace - Linux, Mac, OS/2 and Unix users are immune, as usual.

Although it's certainly dangerous and spreading, Mimail-I has yet to reach epidemic proportions. According to email filtering firm MessageLabs, the original Mimail-A worm is much more common. MessageLabs has blocked approximately 2,000 copies of Mimail-I to date.

Four variants of Mimail, including one that launches a DDoS attack against anti-spam sites from infected PCs, are listed in MessageLabs' daily top ten most unwanted list.

Standard defence precautions against viral attacks from all variants of the worm apply: users should update their AV signature definition files to detect the virus and resist the temptation to open suspicious looking emails. Oh and don't reply to email security checks from financial institutions, as they're almost certainly bogus. ®

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Dangerous Mimail variant knocks over anti-spam sites
Sneaky virus poses as email from sysadmin (Mimail-A)
Telia blocks spam-sending Zombie PCs
Email scammers target Halifax, Nationwide, Citibank
UK banks and police proffer anti-phishing advice

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