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Security firms have issued warnings over a multilingual computer virus that can shut down firewalls and disable anti-virus software. Zafi-b, which is also known as Hazafi or Erkez-b, spreads both as an email attachment and via peer-to-peer file-sharing systems, using techniques common to similar worms. The worm, first discovered last week and now spreading rapidly, is delivered in the form of a .pif, .exe or .com file.

Most interesting about the malware is its ability to speak in multiple tongues. Zafi replicates itself in Hungarian, German, Dutch, English, Italian, Swedish, Spanish, and Russian.

People are not expecting to get a virus in their own native tongue and so [they] drop their guard a little," said Conor Flynn, technical director of Irish e-security company Rits, who described Zafi-b as "smart...It also uses file names linked to the WinAmp music program and the Total Commander computer games."

Zafi-b is not the first bug with capability of speaking in different languages. Sober-d, released into the wild earlier this year, recognises German email addresses, so that text in emails was written entirely in German, rather than in the default language, English.

Like other email worms, Zafi-b harvests addresses from users' address books and then spreads by sending itself to those addresses. The new variant also disables tools central to the Microsoft Windows operating system such as the Registry Editor and Task Manager, preventing the use of these essential applications by other programs, said Finnish e-security company F-Secure.

Zafi-b accounted for more than 60 per cent of reports to Sophos's network of monitoring stations over 24 hours. Because Zafi-b can disable anti-virus programmes, computer users should update anti-virus signatures on perimeter machines connected to external networks on an hourly basis, said Rits' Flynn.

Zafi-a appeared in the wild in April to coincide with Hungary's accession into the EU; it contained a political message appealing to Hungarian patriotism. This first manifestation of the worm didn't appear outside the country as it only sent itself to .hu addresses. The Zafi.B variant contains a different political payload, this time demanding that the Hungarian government accommodates the homeless, tightens up the penal code and votes for the death penalty.

The new worm can also orchestrate distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks aimed at shutting down Web sites operated by the Hungarian government and Hungarian anti-virus firms. ®

© ENN

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