A war of words is breaking out between the creators of the Netsky, Bagle and MyDoom Windows worms.
Lots of new viruses are threatening to overwhelm e-mail users
The malicious programs' creators are putting taunts and insults in successive variants of their viruses.
The spat began because Bagle's creators are jealous of all the media attention that the Netsky virus is getting.
"I would much rather they ranted at each other on message boards instead of in raw code," said Graham Cluley from anti-virus firm Sophos.
The war of words has being conducted via fresh variants of the viruses which have different messages hidden inside them.
There are now nine versions of Bagle, six versions of Netsky and seven versions of Mydoom circulating online.
Five of these viruses made their unwelcome debut on 3 March as the slanging match between the different virus writing groups escalated.
SAMPLE NETSKY.F SUBJECT LINES
Re: Re: Re: Your document
Re: Re: Message
Re: Your picture
Re: Here is the document
Re: Your document
Anti-virus firms discovered the insults inside the viruses when they were being taken apart to find out how they differed from earlier versions of these malicious programs.
Inside Bagle.J, along with a string of profanity, is a message reading: "don't ruine (sic) our bussiness, wanna start a war?"
The response to this seems to be inside Netsky.F, released the day after Bagle.J, which contains a message reading: "Bagle - you are a looser!!!! (sic)".
This worm also attempts to remove any versions of Bagle it finds on a PC.
Other messages in other variants pour scorn on the different tricks the virus writers use to help their creations spread.
Anti-virus experts said that the groups behind the viruses seem to have very different motives.
Netsky's creators seem to have written their virus simply to show off.
By contrast the creators of Bagle and MyDoom seem intent on enrolling infected machines into a network of remotely controllable PCs that can be used to forward spam or act as a launch pad for other viruses.
"It's hard to imagine a more comical situation: a handful of virus writers are playing unpunished with the internet, and not one member of the internet community can take decisive action to stop to this lawlessness," said Eugene Kaspersky, head of anti-virus research at Kaspersky Labs.
SAMPLE BAGLE.J SUBJECT LINES
E-mail account disabling warning.
E-mail account security warning.
Email account utilization warning.
Important notify about your e-mail account.
Notify about using the e-mail account.
Notify about your e-mail account utilization
Warning about your e-mail account.
A study conducted by net specialist Sandvine estimates that net service firms will spend $370m (£202m) dealing with worms in 2004.
This cost covers wages for virus response teams, overworked customer support, bandwidth costs and the loss of customers tired of virus outbreaks.
The study found that up to 12% of data traffic on net provider networks is viruses, worms or trojans. Even on networks with good security 5% of traffic could be malicious.