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Friday, 4 October, 2002, 11:50 GMT 12:50 UK
Q&A: The Bugbear e-mail virus

The Bugbear virus has been rated as a high danger to computer users by anti-virus experts. BBC News Online explains how it works and what can be done to stop it.

What is Bugbear?

Bugbear is an e-mail virus that can automatically infect computers running Windows if you have not closed a security hole in Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Outlook Express, and Internet Explorer. But you still have to be careful - even if you have patched the loophole - as opening the e-mail attachment will allow the virus to infect a computer.

What damage can the virus do?

Bugbear copies itself to the hard drive of a computer, as well as on to any other computers connected over a network. The virus then stops some security and anti-virus programs from running. More significantly, it records everything you type in some programs, such as passwords or credit card numbers. It can then send a file with this information to several e-mail addresses. The virus also opens a backdoor on the computer through which a hacker could get into the machine.

How does Bugbear spread?

The virus looks for e-mail addresses and sends off infected messages to people on your address book. This is partly the reason behind the spread of the bug. It tries to disguise itself by using random e-mail address in the "from" field. It also uses a variety of subject lines like "just a reminder", "bad news", "interesting..." and membership confirmation to fool computer users.

What can I do to stop Bugbear?

As a first step, you should visit www.windowsupdate.com, a service set up by Microsoft to scan Windows computers for security loopholes, to update your versions of Outlook, Explorer and Outlook Express. You should also make sure your anti-virus software is up to date so that it can catch Bugbear before it infects your computer. If you think you have the virus, then download a program from an anti-virus site that will disinfect your machine.

See also:

04 Oct 02 | Technology
28 May 02 | Science/Nature
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