[February 06, 2006]

Primitive computer virus hits few so far

(Chicago Tribune (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Feb. 4--As threats to modern society go, the Internet virus named Kama Sutra was a dud on Friday.

Computer security experts warned for days that Kama Sutra, named after a venerable Indian guide to eroticism, was programmed to begin overwriting document, image and compressed computer files on Friday.

It didn't much happen on corporate networks, but home users could still be vulnerable.

"This is primarily a home attack virus," said Ken Dunham, director of rapid response for iDefense, a computer security business.

Kama Sutra could spread through computer networks with difficulty, if at all, meaning businesses were largely safe. Moreover, computer security firms knew since mid-January that the virus was circulating. That left ample time to develop countermeasures.


As viruses go, Kama Sutra was primitive.

It infects computers via e-mail promising racy pictures. Unsophisticated users who click on the e-mail introduce the virus to their computer. The virus then hijacks the users' e-mail address book and sends replicas of itself to the contacts listed.

E-mail infection was the earliest means of reproduction for computer viruses. Much more sophisticated techniques exist today.

Dunham said the use of sexually related images to lure users into opening infected e-mail remains a successful strategy, however.

"It might be dumb, it might be simple, but it works," he said.

Computer security experts estimate that no more than a few hundred thousand computers were infected, in part because the virus was widely publicized. That gave people a chance to upgrade security.

Significant problems did appear in Milan, Italy, however.

Technicians switched off 10,000 city government computers after discovering the infection Thursday and deciding they didn't have enough time to fix the problem.

"It has spread to all our computers," said Giancarlo Martella, Milan's councilman for technological innovation and public services. "Knowing how destructive it is, we turned off all personal computers to avoid losing our data."

Past e-mail attacks slowed the Internet as massive amounts of data moved online. But that did not happen with Kama Sutra.

"We expect this to be non-event for overall Internet performance, because of the way this particular worm operates," said Eric Stokesberry, vice president of operations for Keynote Systems, a San Mateo, Calif., company that monitors Internet activity.

"This worm sends e-mail messages that use a small amount of bandwidth," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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