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An email worm which poses as a Christmas greeting began spreading widely yesterday. Zafi-D comes as an infectious attachment to emails written in a variety of different languages, including English, Spanish, Russian, Swedish and Hungarian. Anti-virus firms believe the worm was created in Hungary.

Typically infected emails have subject lines such as 'FW: Merry Christmas', 'Happy HollyDays!' and 'Feliz Navidad!'. Embedded inside each email is a crude animated GIF graphic of two 'smiley' faces. The attachment name is made up of the word "postcard" in the respective language, random numbers and the extension .pif, .cmd, .bat, or .com. Windows users who open the attached file get infected.

Zafi-D harvests email addresses from compromised machines and uses its own SMTP engine to spread. It also attempts to spread through P2P networks. It attempts to terminate firewall and anti-virus apps on infected machines. Several Windows tools, like Task Manager and Registry Editor, are disabled when the worm is active. Even worse, Zafi-D has also a back door that listens on port 8181. Crackers can upload and execute files using this backdoor, which turns infected machines into zombies.

Anti-virus firm MessageLabs has blocked over 25,000 copies of Zafi-D. The multilingual nature of Zafi-D (the original Zafi used only Hungarian text) helps to explain its relative success in spreading. Most anti-virus firms rate Zafi-D as a medium to high risk threat.

Standard defensive precautions apply: avoid opening unsolicited attachments, even when they appear to come from people you trust; update AV tools to detect the worm. If you think your PCs might be infected by Zafi or another virus then our guide to cleaning up PCs may come in handy. ®

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