Cybernaut 

MyDoom breaks records

Ahh MyDoom, the plucky little virus that could.

It started inconspicuously two weeks ago with routine warnings about a new virus that was making the rounds and the usual stern advice not to open any strange e-mail attachment, no matter who they’re from.

And did the people listen to the experts? No, they did not. They never do.

By the time Thursday (Jan. 29) rolled around as many as one out of every three e-mails circulating on the Internet was a variation of virus, prompting some industry watchers to declare that MyDoom (also known as Novarg) was officially the worst virus in cyber history. Early estimates believe the total cost of this virus, in terms of damages and lost productivity, will be in excess of $35 billion.

If you’re one of those people who helped make it happen by opening an e-mail attachment you shouldn’t have, then congratulations – we couldn’t have hit this milestone without you.

The problem doesn’t lie with computers, but with the people out there who still don’t understand how these viruses work.

MyDoom, like most of the big viruses, uses e-mail to propagate itself. When you activate a virus by opening an e-mail attachment, the virus gets into your e-mail address book and sends copies of itself to everyone you know. Most of these viruses are relatively easy to spot and MyDoom is no exception.

MyDoom usually arrives in your Inbox with subject line that says "Hello" or "Test", or mimics a Mail Delivery Error. The text is simple, and directs you to open the attachment if you want to get your message.

One of these text prompters says the message is in ASCII format, and advises you to open the attachment if you want to read it.

That alone should be enough to set off the alarm bells. ASCII is the basic text coding used by most computers, and is something of a universal standard. Chances are the e-mails you receive are in ASCII already.

Once you open the attachment, which has either a .exe, .scr, .zip or .pif extension, the virus goes to work.

MyDoom immediately sends itself to every contact in your address book and uses your computer to scour the Webs for more computers and addresses to send itself to. That’s how MyDoom tied up networks, slowed up servers, and clogged Internet bandwith.

One variation of the virus hid itself away in infected computers, ticking away the hours until Sunday (Feb. 1) when all at once infected computers attempted to connect to SCO Group.

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