RealTime IT News

Virus Writers Slapped With Red Card

One of the biggest sporting events in the world may be more than a year away, but the games have already begun on the Internet.

It seems scammers are gearing up for the June 2006 multi-national soccer event, to be held in Germany, by sending out millions of virus-carrying e-mails advertising ticket confirmations for the matches.

World Cup organizers are trying to get the word to prospective fans that the messages are actually carrying a nasty payload and should be ignored.

The messages appear in recipients' inboxes as originating from the Fédération Internationale de Football (FIFA). The worm, a variant of the Sober virus, then harvests e-mail addresses from the victim and launches a barrage of spam to the acquired addresses, according to anti-virus firm McAfee .

Security firm Trend Micro has included the virus in its "red alert" category, while McAfee said the social engineering gambit posed a "medium risk" to Internet users.

Panda Software said on its Web site that the virus was spreading in English and German, and had already hit computers in Austria, Germany, Switzerland and the United States.

Fans receiving e-mails from Ticket@fifa.de and Gewinn@fifa.de should not open the attachments.

A total of 2.93 million tickets to the quadrennial event will be sold to the general public in five stages, according to the FIFA Web site. The huge number of tickets likely makes the event a prime target for these scams.

More than 800,000 tickets have already been sold during the first stage and Tuesday marked the beginning of stage two.

The virus marks the third time in the last three World Cups where scammers have successfully launched a virus directed at fans.

In 2002 a virus masqueraded as onscreen scores and in 1998, a virus was hidden in a fake contest that asked recipients who they thought would win the tournament.