Shockwave virus upgraded to high risk |  Software

SAN FRANCISCO -- An Internet worm that disguises itself as a Shockwave Flash movie is gaining traction among corporations around the world, and at least one anti-virus software vendor upgraded the virus to "high risk" Friday afternoon.

Anti-virus company McAfee, in Santa Clara, Calif., said it has received as many as 50 reports of the virus in the past 24 hours, most of which are from corporations, including several Fortune 500 companies. The unusually high number of reports prompted the Network Associates' subsidiary to upgrade the virus from medium risk to high risk late Friday afternoon.

Trend Micro, in Cupertino, Calif., is also seeing increased incidences of the virus, which arrives in an e-mail bearing the subject line, "A great shockwave flash movie." Trend Micro received reports of the worm Friday from nine Fortune 500 companies in the United States, Europe, and Asia, as well as numerous smaller companies, officials said.

The worm, which first appeared Thursday, is delivered to users in the form of an e-mail attachment that appears to be a Shockwave Media Player. When a user tries to view the movie attachment, the worm sends a copy of itself to all people in the address book of the user's Microsoft Outlook e-mail program, potentially clogging e-mail networks.

The worm does not destroy files on a user's computer, but renames all files of the .jpeg and .zip type and moves them to the PC's root directory, said Patrick Nolan, a virus researcher with McAfee's Anti-Virus Emergency Response Team (AVERT).

There does not appear to be a pattern to the industries that have been affected by the virus, which include companies in the manufacturing, banking, health care, and retail sectors, various officials said.

Although the worm does not delete files, it can clog e-mail networks and take e-mail servers offline. Cleaning up files that have been relocated and renamed could also waste considerable man hours, Nolan said.

Anti-virus vendors have long been warning users not to open attached files of the .exe type. One reason the Creative.exe virus may be spreading so quickly is that it uses the Shockwave Flash movie icon. Users tend to trust familiar icons they see on their computers, and virus writers are starting to play off that trust, a spokeswoman for McAfee said.

"This could be setting a new trend in virus writing," the spokeswoman said.

The virus has not caused as much damage as the notorious "I Love You" virus, which reached millions of computers in May this year and wreaked havoc at corporations around the globe. The ability of "I Love You" to delete files and the fact that it spread so rapidly earned it McAfee's highest risk assessment: "high risk -- outbreak." The Shockwave virus is currently rated at high risk, one step below.

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