Here We Go Again: New Bagle Variants

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WASHINGTON -- Three, and possibly four, new versions of the Bagle e-mail worm were spreading quickly on the Internet today, Internet security firms reported.

MessageLabs, which monitors 110 million pieces of e-mail sent per day, found about 145,000 copies of just one of the new Bagle downloader variants, according to Maksym Schipka, a senior antivirus researcher at MessageLabs. The company tracked about 4000 copies of that variant between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. Pacific Time; then the number shot up to nearly 42,000 copies in the next hour, and to 56,000 copies between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. Pacific Time.

About 80 variants of the original Bagle worm, which first appeared in January 2004, have been released on the Internet. The first Bagle downloader variant that MessageLabs tracked Tuesday drops a Trojan horse program that attempts to download Bagle from a list of about 130 Web sites worldwide. Computer users who activate the file attached to the e-mail activate the virus, which harvests the e-mail addresses it finds on the computer's hard drive. The virus then forwards itself to the e-mail addresses listed on the infected computer.

In the first variant to appear on Tuesday, the e-mail carrying the Bagle worm had an empty subject line and body text, MessageLabs said.

How It Started This Time

The first Tuesday variant seems to have started on a Yahoo Web mail account, Schipka said. "Somebody wanted to refresh his botnets or e-mail addresses," Schipka said of the motivation for a new Bagle variant. "They want to keep up-to-date with the things they sell." Botnets are groups of compromised computers, controlled by hackers and often used in cyberattacks.

Antivirus vendor Symantec also reported seeing at least one new Bagle variant Tuesday, but it found that the worm was spreading less quickly than MessageLabs reported. Symantec noted only about 50 Bagle copies on computers with its virus-protection software installed, said Alfred Huger, senior director of engineering at Symantec Security Response. Huger said that he expected little damage from this Bagle attack.

Damage from the new Bagle variants should be minor as antivirus vendors react quickly to the attacks, said Ken Dunham, director of malicious code at iDefense, another cybersecurity vendor. The first two variants seen Tuesday were tentatively dubbed Bagle.CA and Bagle.CB, which would make them the 79th and 80th Bagle variants.

"We're a long way down the line of Bagle worms," Dunham said. "It's very similar to former Bagle attacks."

Dunham encouraged computer users to update their antivirus software, use firewalls. and avoid opening suspect files attached to e-mail. "Just because it looks like it was from your billing department, or it was from your friend, or it was porno, doesn't mean it is," he said. "Be careful on e-mail--don't trust anything."

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