Microsoft Launches Virus Information Center as Deceptive Worm Floods
Microsoft, Network Associates (parent company of McAfee), and Trend
Micro announced that they have formed an initiative called the Virus
Information Alliance (VIA), a new way for customers to get information
about virus threats that affect Microsoft technology. The VIA
announcement is well timed; a new network worm called Palyh is
spreading quickly through email and LANs.
Palyh, also called the Mankx worm, appears as mail from
, a spoofed address. The email message carries a
virus-infected attachment with a .pif extension that Windows treats as
an executable. The message body tells users that "all information is
in the attached file." The new worm isn't the first to prey on
unsuspecting users with deceptive messages. In 1999, the ILOVEYOU
email worm shut down many companies' email servers for several hours.
Like the ILOVEYOU worm, the new worm replicates itself using users'
email address books.
The new worm, which began spreading this weekend, had antivirus
vendors rushing to update their virus definitions. As of yesterday
morning, many vendors hadn't released new antivirus definitions, which
helped lead to the worm's rapid spread. But by last night, all the
major antivirus vendors had updated their definitions. New security
features in Microsoft Outlook protect users who have up-to-date
software: By default, the .pif extension is disabled in Outlook 2000
with Post-Service Release 2 installed and in Outlook XP.
Microsoft and its industry partners hope to educate and alert
customers about virus threats, thereby minimizing the future spread of
worms such as Palyh. The new initiative, which is long overdue,
includes the launch of a new Virus Information Center that contains
virus alerts, including technical information about viruses in the
wild and information about how customers can protect themselves. In
the future, the alliance will add white papers and other resources to
help users prevent viruses from spreading. Network Associates and
Trend Micro will provide information for the site. Microsoft says it
invited all antivirus vendors to participate in the program, but
Network Associates and Trend Micro were the only two companies who
chose to participate at this time. Microsoft hopes to add more vendors
in the future.