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Britney fears used as ANI exploit lure

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Interest in troubled pop star Britney Spears is being used by hackers to trick surfers into visiting websites exploiting the Microsoft animated cursor vulnerability, the subject of a out-of-sequence patch by Microsoft on Tuesday.

Spammed emails are directing internet users to hacked PHP websites with the promise of candid pictures of the shaven-headed, crotch-flashing chanteuse. Net security firm Sophos reports that the "toxic" campaign campaign began on 30 March with just a link to a Russian website, which contained a script that pointed at a zero-day exploit of Microsoft's .ANI vulnerability.

At that point the email contained no graphics. Since then, the attack has evolved to feature an embedded image of the scantily clad pop star and links to a hacker website promising more explicit titillation in email messages with subject lines such as "Hot pictures of Britiney Speers".

Windows users are advised to patch their systems and to disregard unsolicited email messages in order to defend their PCs against this (and similar) attacks.

It's not the first time Britney has figured as the topic in malware-touting spam emails. An email aware worm, promising a glimpse of the pop princess, was released in February 2002. Other pin-ups like Halle Berry, Avril Lavigne and (most notoriously) Anna Kournikova have also featured as the topic of malware blitzes.

The cursor bug has been the subject of several malware attacks since first reports of the problem surfaced last week. The stack-based buffer overflow flaw allows hackers to inject hostile code into unpatched systems. Internet Explorer can process .ANI files in HTML documents, so web pages and HTML email messages are also vectors for the vulnerability.

Contrary to earlier reports, Firefox users might also be at risk of attacks exploiting the Windows animated cursor vulnerability. Mozilla technicians are working on a workaround, ZDnet reports. ®

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