RealTime IT News

The Sober Virus Returns

A wave of far-right German, political-party propaganda choked millions of e-mail inboxes around the world over the weekend, delivering racist messages along with a dirty payload.

The Sober.q virus was first spotted Sunday as it quickly crossed the globe, blasting e-mail addresses found on infected PCs. Most of the political rhetoric contained links to news stories and content with approximately 72 varying subject lines, according to security firm MessageLabs.

The payloads quickly turned infected PCs into spam-generating machines, launching the propaganda from thousands of hosts.

The virus, which was sent an estimated 10 million times during the first few days of attacks, has since slowed, and the risks have been downgraded to "medium" by most security firms, including McAfee .

Most of the mail contains a single URL directing recipients to a range of online articles in reputable German newspapers and magazines promoting political messages with right-wing tendencies, according to Stephen White, Head of Anti-Spam Technical Operations for MessageLabs.

"This latest attack by the Sober author is comparatively sophisticated and has obviously been well planned," White said. "It appears that previously unexploited networks of machines were infected with earlier incarnations of the Sober worm."

The timing of the attacks coincides with last week's celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. Many of the 72 variations of the e-mail refer to "war-related" political messages, such as the Allied bombing of Dresden in 1945.

The spam also included links to the German Web sites for the far-right National Democratic Party.

The Sober virus has now had over 20 incarnations, the most recent coming earlier this month when scammers began gearing up for the 2006 World Cup, to be held in Germany, by sending millions of virus-carrying e-mails advertising ticket confirmations for the matches.

Other messages sent in Sober.q contain racist rants in both English and German against allowing Turkey into the European Union.