MyDoom Variant Packs Photo of Netsky Author

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2004-09-16 Print this article Print

A new variant of the MyDoom Internet worm contains some puzzling add-ins: a photo that bears a likeness of Sven Jaschan, whom police in Berlin charged with computer sabotage after he admitted to authoring the Sasser worm, and a high-level description of h

A new variant of the MyDoom Internet worm contains some puzzling add-ins: a photo that bears a likeness of Sven Jaschan, whom police in Berlin last week charged with computer sabotage after he admitted to authoring the Sasser worm, and a high-level description of how it does what it does. The variant, which is being called MyDoom.AA by Computer Associates International Inc. and MyDoom.Y by F-Secure Corp. and McAfee Inc., among other names, packs in its payload a description from the author on how the virus was programmed, what its supposed to do and how it retrieves e-mail addresses from, for example, Microsoft Corp.s Outlook address book. Thats nothing new, though, since thats a typical characteristic of MyDoom variants, according to Sam Curry, vice president of eTrust security management at Computer Associates, in Islandia, N.Y.
Click here to read about how Microsofts rapid response set in motion the investigation that helped police nab the suspected Sasser author.
"There are remote-control Trojans," Curry said. "When installed, it gives a hacker who knows its there control of the system. Most of these programs contain read-mes and text files on how to use them. Its not unusual for the MyDoom series. It happens all the time." The one thing thats unique in the how-to file is the fact that its a "high-level summary," according to Craig Schmugar, a virus research manager with McAfee Inc.s AVERT (Anti-Virus and Vulnerability Emergency Response Team), in Beaverton, Ore. "For MyDoom [variants] specifically, I cant think of another that created a text file that outlined what [the worm] was trying to do," he said. "Its not uncommon for virus authors who are sending stuff directly to anti-virus companies to include a description of what theyre doing," but for such a description to go out in an infectious payload is unusual, he said. The inclusion of this kind of self-referential instruction set might just be a ploy to get attention, Schmugar said. "You might infer by them doing this theyre making it easier for people to describe that variant," he said. "Perhaps in the authors eyes theyre hoping their variant will get more attention, more press and more descriptions written about it, which is kind of whats happening." Curry said the worm is spreading slowly in the labs, which is puzzling, given that it has all of the elements to make it a fast and harmful pest. MyDoom.AA has the potential to spread rapidly in a number of ways, including via Kazaa file-sharing or via ICQ instant messaging. MyDoom.AA contains a remote-controlled payload it installs along with the photo of Jaschan on infected systems. Anybody who knows the worm is there can remotely connect to the infected computer, thus allowing an intruder to effectively take control of the system as if he or she were logged in and sitting at the keyboard, Curry said. CA has been watching MyDoom variants since last week, Curry said. On Friday, researchers discovered and tracked four new variants. Computers running heuristics behavioral analysis, which is a default for security products such as that from CA, are immune to the latest variant. Users and enterprises must keep their anti-virus software up to date, however, as opposed to assuming theyre safe merely because theyre running heuristics, Curry said. "On principle, I must insist, most people should regularly be up-to-date," he said. "Its always a good habit. Virus writers can find a way around heuristics." As far as the photo goes, Curry described it as "ironic," given that Jasachan is suspected of authoring the Netsky and Sasser viruses. Jaschan in May told authorities he had created the Netsky virus in order to automatically remove two other viruses from infected systems: MyDoom and Bagle. After creating several Netsky variations, he went on to create Sasser, he told authorities. Check out eWEEK.coms Security Center for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers Weblog.

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Lisa Vaas is News Editor/Operations for and also serves as editor of the Database topic center. Since 1995, she has also been a Webcast news show anchorperson and a reporter covering the IT industry. She has focused on customer relationship management technology, IT salaries and careers, effects of the H1-B visa on the technology workforce, wireless technology, security, and, most recently, databases and the technologies that touch upon them. Her articles have appeared in eWEEK's print edition, on, and in the startup IT magazine PC Connection. Prior to becoming a journalist, Vaas experienced an array of eye-opening careers, including driving a cab in Boston, photographing cranky babies in shopping malls, selling cameras, typography and computer training. She stopped a hair short of finishing an M.A. in English at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. She earned a B.S. in Communications from Emerson College. She runs two open-mic reading series in Boston and currently keeps bees in her home in Mashpee, Mass.

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