First Reported JPEG Virus Found

The emergence of a new virus that infects JPEG files was announced Thursday by security firm Network Associates and other antivirus companies, which received the code as a possible warning of things to come from its creator, who has requested anonymity.

The W32/Perrun virus, as it is now being called, extracts data from JPEG files and then injects picture files with infected digital images. A fair warning to those individuals who are fond of sending multimedia files to friends and families.

What makes Perrun so remarkable, according to security experts, is that it is the first viral program with multiple parts and the ability to carry viral code from programs into data files. Until now, data files were relatively immune to infection. Not so anymore, say experts.

Typically, the virus arrives via email or a floppy disk as an executable file, and so the standard warning against opening programs sent as attachment should once again be enforced. The contaminated file unleashes an extractor virus onto the hard drive and when a picture file is accessed with the .JPG extension, the second part of the virus strikes without notice to the sender or receiver of the digital image file.

The good news is that security experts think Perrun can easily be thwarted in its current incarnation and at present it cannot travel via mass emailings. Although with an upgrade it could easily become more destructive and pose a serious threat to PC users.

Computers running on Microsoft Windows are particularly vulnerable to Perrun, say experts.

Vincent Gullotto, antivirus researcher for McAfee Security was quoted as saying that Perrun is indicative of a very destructive pattern in the development of viruses and that it could be a sign of things to come for the exchange of JPEG files.

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