Love Bug variant not as destructive

A new, more destructive variant of the "I Love You" worm surfaced Friday, but its bite hasn't quite lived up to its bark because the widespread e-mail infestation of its predecessor has not materialised.

"It looks like most people woke up early to this and warned just about everybody they knew," said Chris Christansen, an analyst with IDC.

Still, Christiansen warned that the new Visual Basic Script worm, dubbed NewLove, was not to be taken lightly. NewLove attempted to catch its victims off-guard by changing the subject field of the e-mail it travels in and the name of the attached file at random by picking up a filename from a user's list of recently used files. If launched, the worm immediately e-mails itself through a Microsoft. Outlook address book and proceeds to delete all accessible files on the local hard drive and in the company network.

Not without its criticism, the .VBS restrictive "patch" that Microsoft plans to release next week for Outlook would have adequate measures to prevent NewLove from spreading, said Chris Le Tocq, research director for Gartner.

He said the recent rush of worm and virus attacks proves how much the world depends on one homogenous platform, creating a breeding ground these malicious code bombardments need in order to be successful.

"I think that we're a technology society that's attempting to find its balance between programmability and security," Le Tocq said.

Until the Microsoft Outlook patch is available and installed, a user's best defense against these attacks is to disable Windows scripting host outright, analysts advised.

"Right now, when Joe teenager can kill your systems at a whim, I'd say on a business functionality balance, do it," Le Tocq said.

The biggest deterrent to NewLove's impact may turn out to be itself, said Mikko Hypponen, manager of Anti-Virus Research at F-Secure. Hyponnen felt that unlike the silent-attack approach that helped propagate "I Love You" several weeks ago, NewLove makes much more noticeable noise -- ultimately crashing a computer and causing people to lose files -- that is hard to ignore.

Eugene Kaspersky, chief of the virus lab at Kapersky, which is based in Moscow, predicted a rash of new viruses.

"I see that in the future, maybe this summer, we will see more Internet worms and viruses based on other kinds of Internet technology. Usually this happens when students have holidays," he said.

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