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

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.

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