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Kournikova worm marks 10th anniversary

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Friday, 11 February, marks the 10th anniversary of the outbreak of the Anna Kournikova worm.

The malware spread by tricking users into opening a mail message that supposedly contained a picture of the famous Russian tennis beauty. In reality, the malware harvested a victim's Outlook address book, forwarding fresh copies of itself to every contact it found there.

The worm, written in Visual Basic Script (VBS), wasn't sophisticated but still managed to spread extremely widely, twice as fast as the infamous Love Bug released a year previously.

The worm was one of the first written using a virus toolkit called VBSWG, and one of the first scripting toolkits to be programmed in Visual Basic. The toolkit was created by an Argentinian coder before being infamously abused by young Dutch man, later identified as Jan De Wit, to create the Anna Kournikova virus.

De Wit was tried in his native Netherlands and eventually received a 150-hour community service order. His lawyers unsuccessfully appealed this modest sentence.

Anna Kournikova was the last of the mass mailers. Fast forward 10 years and the malware landscape is dominated by stealthier threats, such as those created by the Zeus of SpyEye cybercrime tools.

The Kournikova worm was the first to be created by someone with a toolkit and little technical knowledge, setting the pattern for the relatively unskilled to use toolkits to create cybcebcrime Trojan variants that has become the dominant pattern of malware abuse today.

More reflection on the history and legacy of the Kournikova malware can be found in blog posts by Sophos here and Symantec here. ®

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