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Today is the first anniverary of Sobig, the worm family which produced such misery for email users last year.

Sobig-A, like its successors, featured a combination of spamming and virus-writing techniques. As well as infecting hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide, Sobig-A installed open proxies on compromised machines, creating an ideal platform for the anonymous dissemination of spam.

To date, email filtering firm MessageLabs has intercepted 737,125 copies in 183 countries; and the worm continues to spread. Despite a built-in expiry date, some infected PCs have incorrectly set system clocks. These machines therefore continue to spew out fresh copies of the malicious code.

Sobig-A's 'success' motivated its unknown author(s) into creating subsequent versions. These 'efforts' led the creation of Sobig-F, the most prolific virus to date. MessageLabs has blocked a staggering 32,899,165 copies of Sobig-F.

The Sobig family has also served as the model for other viruses using convergence techniques, such as the Fizzer worm.

Sobig has altered the viral landscape, acording to Mark Sunner, CTO at MessageLabs. "Sobig-A and its successors represent one of the most significant shifts in virus writing techniques to date. While the line between virus writers and spammers was once drawn clearly, this new generation of viruses is fast eroding that distinction," he said.

"The success of Sobig has served as an inspiration to cyber criminals, and demonstrates what can be achieved when they work together," he added. ®

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