Experts warn about Life Stages e-mail virus

Experts warn about Life Stages e-mail virus

By Christopher J. Dorobek

GCN Staff

JUNE 20'Another e-mail virus, this one spreading through an attachment with a file extension invisible to many users, is making the rounds.

The CERT Coordination Center at Carnegie Mellon University began monitoring the Life Stages virus over the weekend and said that it appears to be spreading widely as an e-mail attachment. The CERT advisory is at www.cert.org/current/current_activity.html#virus.

Symantec Corp. of Cupertino, Calif., said the damage potential for the Life Stages virus is low, but its distribution is classified as high. The company said many organizations have already been infected. Symantec's posting is at www.symantec.com/avcenter/venc/data/vbs.stages.a.htm.

The virus, which, like other recent viruses, is spreading through Microsoft Outlook to computers running Microsoft Windows, comes as an attachment titled LIFE_STAGES.TXT.SHS. If a user executes the attachment, it opens a text file in Notepad displaying the male and female stages of life. As the user reads the text file, the program distributes itself using the Outlook address book.

CERT's advisory noted that, by default, Microsoft Windows operating systems are configured to hide the .SHS file extension from the user, so the file may appear as merely a text file.

The most complex aspect of the virus is that is difficult to remove, Symantec said.

Security experts are instructing network managers to configure their e-mail systems to filter out or stop all incoming e-mails that have attachments with .SHS extensions.

Agencies have been dealing occasionally with viruses that started with the Melissa virus last year and the ILOVEYOU virus earlier this year.

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