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New computer virus variant floods Web sites of anti-spam activists
Anick Jesdanun, The Associated Press 2003-12-03

A new computer virus is spamming the very people dedicated to fighting junk e-mail.

At least three variants of the Mimail virus, the latest of which began circulating this week, are programmed to flood the Web sites of anti-spam organizations with junk e-mail in hopes of making them inaccessible to legitimate visitors.

The latest variant also tricks recipients into flooding the organizations with additional e-mail by pretending to be an order for child pornography and requiring a reply for cancellation.

Groups targeted by the so-called distributed denial-of-service attacks are the Spamhaus Project, at spamhaus.org, SpamCop, at spamcop.net, and Spam Prevention Early Warning System, at spews.org.

The three groups provide lists of Internet addresses used by known or suspected spammers. Internet service providers and e-mail operators can use the lists to help filter junk e-mail.

Spamhaus says it began facing the attacks over the summer, shortly after it pointed out a new spamming technique in which viruses help set up e-mail relayers on the machines of unsuspecting users. These relayers, or proxies, help spammers send out junk e-mail more quickly and make them even more difficult to trace or block.

The motivation of the virus writers appears to be vengeful annoyance, rather than an attempt to shut down the anti-spam groups, according to Vincent Weafer, senior director of Symantec Security Response, the research lab for the anti-virus vendor Symantec Corp.

Spamhaus director Steve Linford said the organization has responded to recent attacks by upgrading its equipment.

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