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The BBC's Rory Cellan Jones
"It is causing a certain amount of annoyance in companies right now"
 real 56k

Thursday, 10 May, 2001, 11:15 GMT 12:15 UK
Porn virus fizzles out
Computer BBC
Anti-virus firms are reporting far fewer infected messages
By BBC News Online technology correspondent Mark Ward

After a strong start, the Homepage e-mail virus has fizzled out barely 24 hours after it first appeared.

The Homepage virus outbreak started on 9 May, hitting organisations in Asia before marching across the globe and infecting companies in Europe and the US.

But now anti-virus companies are reporting that far fewer infected messages are being sent, and the outbreak appears to have been contained.

Early fears that the virus was a misguided marketing attempt to drum up traffic for porn sites have been confirmed.

Marketing mail

On 9 May, anti-virus companies were fearing another serious outbreak when the Homepage virus, or "VBSWG.X" as it was officially dubbed, started clogging mail servers with infected messages.

Like the Love Bug and Kournikova viruses, Homepage exploited the security failings of Microsoft Outlook to attach a pernicious payload to an innocent looking message.

The e-mail message carrying the virus is tagged with the subject "Homepage", and in the message body it says: "Hi! You've got to see this page! It's really cool ;O)". The attachment is called "homepage.html.vbs."

Anyone opening the attachment will be directed to one of four pornographic websites and find that the home page of their browser has been re-set to one of the quartet. The virus also raids the address book of Outlook and tries to mail infected messages to every name it finds.

Computer BBC
But now the virus appears to have been contained, probably thanks to the efforts companies have taken in the wake of previous outbreaks. Anti-virus company MessageLabs said it was now seeing far fewer copies of the virus circulating.

The virus is a variant of the Kournikova virus that was circulating in February and was built using the same software toolkit. The supposed creators of the virus contacted technology news site Wired to say that they did it to drum up traffic for their porn sites, and to get them started on a career in "sneak advertising".

But advertising experts said it was unlikely that using computer viruses to do marketing would win the trio any fans.

"Somehow I doubt that anyone is going to think it's a great idea to annoy their customers, break their computer networks and commit illegal acts in order to promote their website," Glenn Arkins, of London advertising firm Admart told Wired.

The three teenage creators are based in the Netherlands, just like virus writer OnTheFly who was behind the Kournikova virus.

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See also:

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