The latest infection to grab hold of the Internet is a virus that has been dubbed Lovsan, so named for the "I just want to say LOVE YOU SAN!" message the virus has been leaving behind on vulnerable computers.
The infection began spreading across the Internet on Monday, and tens of thousands of computers were affected by mid-afternoon. Researchers fear the virus may reach epidemic proportions after spreading overnight Monday. The Lovsan virus is also known as Blaster.
The virus takes advantage of a weakness in the Microsoft Windows operating systems that was publicized earlier this summer. The vulnerability provides hackers with an opportunity to fool computers into accepting dangerous commands. While not damaging data on infected computers, the virus does cause the computers to shut down.
Besides leaving the Lovsan message behind, the virus also contains a hidden message: "billy gates why do you make this possible? Stop making money and fix your software!" The worm also attempts to perform a Denial of Service on the windowsupdate.com file, affecting computers that are not protected, according to the description on the Symantec Web site. In addition, computers affected with the virus are programmed to launch an attack on the Microsoft Web site that provides patches for the virus.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has issued an urgent warning about the Microsoft vulnerability and recommends that all computer owners update their operating systems as soon as possible. Patches are available on the Microsoft Web site.
Whether or not the virus takes hold and disrupts Internet activity depends on how many systems are affected. "It really depends on how much it spreads," said Vincent Gullotto, a vice president at Network Associates Inc.
The virus does not spread through e-mail as so many other world-wide viruses have done. Instead the virus can spread to anyone with an Internet connection. "This means you can't do anything to stop your computer getting it, unless you install a firewall [protective anti-virus software]," said Peter Mitchell, a computer security expert in Australia.
Computers are being infected around the world. Officials in Sweden reported this morning that Internet servers are becoming clogged with the virus and systems are crashing.