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A Trojan horse that poses as a World Cup wallchart has begun circulating on the net. The Haxdoor-IN Trojan horse is been spamvertised in messages, written in German, that purport a program that will allow fans to keep tab on football teams participating in next month's eagerly anticipated tournament.

Windows users who follow links in these messages and download the software will wind up with infected PCs. Net security firm Sophos says all the spam emails promoting downloads of the malware it has seen so far have been written in German. "There is no reason to believe that hackers will not switch to using other languages to increase their pool of potential victims," it warns.

Virus writers have regularly taken advantage of World Cup competitions to promote their wares. A year ago, the Sober-N worm offered tickets to the tournament in an attempt to trap gullible users into opening an infectious email attachment. In 2002, the Chick-F virus tried to exploit fans' desires to learn the latest scores from games in South Korea and Japan.

In 1998, in the run-up to the World cup competition in France, another football-inspired virus (called obscurely ZMK-J) asked infected victims to gamble on who the winner might be. Failure to guess the same team as a random selection made by the virus trigerred a data wiping payload on compromised Windows PCs. ®

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