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I Love You, Sucker

Maybe malware writers just need a hug

4:20 PM -- SophosLabs and Secure Computing Corp. today are both warning users about a widespread worm posing as a Valentine's Day greeting that is spreading quickly.

Sophos reports that the W32/Dref-AB worm started spreading via email on last night so it would be in workers' inboxes when they turned on their work computers this morning. Since about 6:00 p.m. eastern on Tuesday, the worm has accounted for 76.4 percent of all malware sighted at Sophos' global network of virus monitoring stations.

Subject lines used in the attack are many and varied, but all pose as a romantic message, according to Sophos. Some of those spotted so far: "A Valentine Love Song," "Be My Valentine," "Fly Away Valentine," "Happy Valentine's Day" and "The Valentine Love Bug."

My question is: What is it with attackers and love?

Just last week, security researchers reported the discovery of the Nurech.A worm, which hides in emails with subjects like: "Together You and I" and "Til the End of Time Heart of Mine." The name of the attached file carrying the malware is always an executable file and has names such as flash postcard.exe or greeting postcard.exe.

Other researchers have rediscovered Nuwar.D, a worm that arrives in messages with subjects such as "5 reasons I love you" or "A kiss for you."

This isn't the first year that Valentine's Day has generated a threat. At this time last year, Sophos discovered a new version of the Bagle worm that poses as a romantic Valentine poem.

Last year's W32/Bagle-CO worm spread in emails with subject lines such as "Will You Be My Valentine?", "Love you with all my heart!", "See you tonight!", "Come Be With Me, my Love!", and "My dream is coming true!". The emails urged the recipient to "Click to attachment to load a movie," followed by one of three romantic poems. If the attached file was executed by the recipient, the worm installed itself on the PC and then looked for other computers to infect.

This has been happening for years. Let's not forget that one of the first widespread Internet viruses, the scourge of the year 2000, was called "iloveyou."

Why do malware writers play the love card so often? The easy answer is that the word "love" gives users a powerful incentive to open an email or file attachment, particularly on Valentine's Day. It's just business -- nothing personal, they say.

But is it a coincidence that these antisocial geeks are playing lovers for fools on the most romantic day of the year? I submit that worm and virus authors may have a deeper, more psychological reason for creating such malware. Maybe they didn't get enough attention when they were kids. Maybe they got rejected by the popular cheerleaders in their high schools. Maybe they received an exploding Valentine from a classmate, and now they're hoping to spoil the holiday for everybody else.

Maybe they're just looking for attention.

Maybe they just need a hug.

Could we solve the malware problem on the Internet with a big group hug? I don't know. It's a lot more friendly than encryption, and a lot easier than updating your antivirus software. Maybe it's worth a try.

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading

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