That latest virus.

The latest worm (called Novarg.a, Mydoom, or MIMAIL_R) is big news all over the place; technical analysis here and here and later here. In a nutshell, the virus uses tech babble as its social engineeering trick, claiming that some message couldn’t…

The latest worm (called Novarg.a, Mydoom, or MIMAIL_R) is big news all over the place; technical analysis here and here and later here. In a nutshell, the virus uses tech babble as its social engineeering trick, claiming that some message couldn’t be transported and had to be wrapped into an attachment. Once people fall for that trick (and amazingly many seem to do that), MyDoom apparently installs a key stroke logger and a network backdoor, and prepares to launch a DoS attack on sco.com.Being armed with good filters, a mail client I trust, and an operating system that won’t run Windows viruses, I normally consider e-mail virus outbreaks as part of the general noise that gets thrown away automatically.So, what makes this one special and worth a blog item? First, it has a new approach to social engineering. No more sex and crime (we recently had a relatively successful worm here which claimed — in German — that the recipient had been indicted for file sharing), but dry tech babble instead. And that approach works surprisingly well, leading to bombardment rates and bandwidth consumption last reached by Sobig.F last summer.Also, the large scale of this outbreak makes it interesting to look at e-mail statistics again. I received the first instance at roughly 9pm CET, that’s 3pm EST. Within just an hour, the bombardment peaked at several pieces of the virus per minute; fortunately (and somewhat surprisingly) much of this was caught by spamassassin. The virus scanner I’m also running kicked in at about 1 am, and has been catching the actual virus traffic since. Junk background noise is still far above the usual numbers, mostly due to bounce messages generated in response to viruses sent out with my e-mail address as the sender.What are the lessons? First, hardly news, but still worth repeating: Virus scanners don’t prevent infections, and — even when updated within hours — leave a huge window of opportunity for spreading a virus. Second, considerable annoyance is caused by virus scanning systems that still believe that they need to notify a message’s alleged sender of infections. Third, spamassassin’s heuristics prove surprisingly effective against much of the incoming virus flood.