Lucky Australia escapes the worm's worst

A spate of Internet worm warnings issued this week thrust IT managers into virus overload, but casualties in Australia were minimal compared to the US and New Zealand.

The Prolin-Shockwave virus, which replicates itself via e-mail and is similar to the much-publicised Love bug, hit Australian shores last week with a "high risk" alert by antivirus vendor McAfee.

Network Associates' Asia Pacific product marketing manager Allan Bell said more than 50 companies in the US were hit by the virus, including several Fortune 500 companies as well as two in New Zealand.

Bell said a large Australian company and a Network Associates' customer was hit with the virus but already had a patch in place.

"There was a bit of panic at the start of this week, but luckily it hit Australia on a Friday so the weekend provided a reprieve; it gave companies time to respond to the threat and minimise damage," he said.

Recent virus outbreaks have raised awareness levels about opening attachments which, Bell said, is important considering the social engineering techniques now used by virus writers.

In New Zealand, telecomms Internet service provider Xtra and public relations company Botica Conroy were both victims of the Shockwave virus.

Xtra is one of the country's largest Internet providers with more than 300,000 users and when Proline-Shockwave is opened it adds insult to injury by proclaiming it "got yet another idiot".

In the same week, Symantec issued a warning about a new variant of the mass-mailing worm W.32Navidad, which affects the Microsoft Outlook e-mail application.

First discovered in November, the original would only launch once but the new variant launches each time the user activates the e-mail program, so the potential for infection is high.

Symantec also issued a warning on a low-risk worm called Afeto, which also affects Microsoft Outlook.

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