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Gorillas in the malware

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Social engineering tricks by virus writers took a strange twist this week after hackers bundled malicious code with pictures of a famous dead albino gorilla. The Wurmark-K email worm displays a picture of Snowflake (AKA Copito de Nieve), an inmate of Barcelona Zoo until his death in November 2003, as it goes about its job of infecting Windows machines.

The Wurmark-K worm spreads as an email attachment in emails with subject lines such as "Your Photo Is On A Webpage!!". If recipients open the attached ZIP file and launch the files inside (with names such as Sexy_02.scr or Lover_01.scr) on Windows machines they become infected by the worm and a graphic of an albino gorilla is displayed. As the image is rendered, Wurmark-K installs the Rbot-ABK network worm and backdoor Trojan horse, enabling hackers to subsequently steal information from an unsuspecting user or plant other malicious code.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos, said the gorilla picture is displayed only after a machine becomes infected. The tactic would lead people to believe the email was just a joke, he added.

Although the Wumark worm presents a very serious security threat it's found few takers so far. Most anti-virus vendors rate it as a low risk. In any case it makes sense for surfers to protect their PCs behind personal firewalls and up-to-date anti-virus software. ®

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