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Hackers are shamelessly exploiting the festive season to spread malware.

A Christmas-themed jigsaw puzzle game called Christmas_Puzzle.exe doing the rounds is actually a Trojan (Ardamax-E) that uses rootkit technology to hide its presence on compromised systems.

Meanwhile a PowerPoint file named Christmas+Blessing-4.ppt uses an IE vulnerabilities to deposit malicious code on vulnerable Windows boxes. The exploit has been embedded in an innocent Christmas-themed PPT slideshow that's been circulating on the net, security firm F-Secure notes.

F-Secure has also received a malware file - named Christmas.exe - which displays a Christmas-themed image as a decoy for its real purpose, turning compromised machines into compromised zombie PCs under the control of hackers.

Not all this festive malware is related to Christmas.

F-Secure notes that a new Warezov spam run is underway which uses a "Happy New Year" postcard as its disguise. Windows users who run the infected attachment will find their PCs running malware that downloads a new variant of the infamous Warezov Trojan.

Standard defensive precautions against viral attacks apply in defending against these Xmas malware assaults.

Users are urged to patch systems up to date and update anti-virus signature definition files. Resisting the temptation to open unsolicited email attachments is also a good idea, of course.

Xmas hats from crackers made from tin-foil instead of paper might also be a good idea, if things get any worse. ®

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