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Emails purporting to offer breaking news of an Iranian nuclear crisis are really the latest attempt by virus writers to use topical events to spread malware. Widely circulated spam email posing as info about Iran's controversial decision to continue work at its Ishafan nuclear plant attempt to direct users to a site harbouring Trojan code.

Subject lines used in the malicious emails include "Iran snubs pleas, resumes uranium shift", "TThe PPhantom Menace" and several others. Windows users who make the mistake of following the web link in the maliciously targeted emails arrive at a website which poses as a fuller version of the story. But in the background the site exploits well-known vulnerabilities in Microsoft's Internet Explorer software to install the Cgab-A and Borodr-Fam Trojan horses. This malware lets hackers seize control of infected Windows PCs.

"We saw the same gang of hackers use a near-identical trick about the tragic story of US marine deaths in Iraq last week," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at anti-virus firm Sophos. Users are advised to update their anti-virus defences and to avoid checking out links in spam messages. These days viral code is a commonly spread through infected websites as via an email attachment, so watch out. ®

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