Bogus Microsoft e-mail spreads worm |

Bogus Microsoft e-mail spreads worm

A bogus e-mail message masquerading as Microsoft security software is spreading the Swen worm, the latest self-replicating electronic sabotage aimed at fouling up computer networks.

The new twist to this new sabotaging spoof, which surfaced last week, is the deceptively official looking e-mail message it’s hiding inside.

The message pretends to be from “Microsoft Network Security Department” and sports a Microsoft logo. It contains several clickable links to the Bellevue, Wash., computer company’s own technical support pages, making it seem even more legitimate.

The only real clue to the e-mail’s true nature — and it’s not much of one — is the text of the letter. It’s written in an awkward style, promising that a file attached to the message is “the latest version of security update, the ‘September 2003, Cumulative Patch’ update which fixes all known security vulnerabilities” for several Microsoft products.

The attached file is named “installation914.exe”. If the recipient opens the file, the worm — a techie term for code that can reproduce itself in machines and across networks without detection — is released and begins e-mailing itself to other users and spreading over networks.

Besides slowing down the machines and networks it infects, Swen will shut down some computer security operations. Some time after it infects a computer, it triggers a phony error message that asks the user for confidential information, such as an e-mail password, which can further allow the system to be compromised.

A report last week on said the Swen worm had affected 1.5 million computers in its first week.

Microsoft spokesman Brian Peterson confirmed the message is a fake. He said computer users should have firewall software protecting their PCs and networks from the Internet, and should update operating systems and anti-virus software regularly.

Hackers increasingly use unsuspecting people’s computers to launch attacks or hide their own identity, said Brian King, an Internet security analyst at the CERT Coordination Center in Oakland.

The center, at the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, monitors computer attacks and security breaches and provides information for avoiding or fixing them.

Such attacks are growing exponentially. The center recorded nearly 22,000 computer security incidents in 2000, and tallied more than 76,000 such incidents in the first half of 2003.

King said unlike the Sobig and Blaster worms that struck in the summer, the Swen worm hasn’t yet prompted enough complaints for his center to begin keeping individual statistics on it. The number of inquiries about Swen already are significantly lower than last week, King said.

“Like a lot of things, it’ll pop up and it’ll spread for a couple days, people will be interested in it, and then it slowly goes away over the next couple days until it disappears,” he said.

Additional Information:

Help available

An online pamphlet by Carnegie Mellon’s CERT Coordination Center offers a thorough, understandable guide to home computer security on the Web site .

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.